The Florida Panthers will have to decide what to do with five pending unrestricted free agent defenseman before the free agency period starts July 1.
Unlike the forwards, there might not be too much debate however as there is a very good chance that none of them will return to the organization.
Tom Gilbert leads the group, and despite being one of the team’s best defenders when he went down with a season ending injury, at 31-years old and the team’s commitment to adding talent from the free agent and trade markets, there isn’t likely going to be a spot for him.
The former fifth round pick put up three consecutive 30-point seasons in each of his first three full and looked to have a bright future ahead of him. His stock quickly dropped and was eventually sent to the Minnesota Wild before being given a compliance buyout.
Ryan Whitney, like Gilbert, once had a bright future in the NHL but his defensive lapses got the best of him and he spent the majority of the year in the American League, and at 31-that could be his future home.
If there is any ‘wildcard’ among the group I think it’ll be Matt Gilroy. The former undrafted Hobey Baker winner at Boston University has always been known for his offensive upside but it has never translated to the NHL level. He did score at a half-a-point pace with the San Antonio Rampage last season, and presents a very interesting depth option for the Panthers.
Michael Caruso is the youngest of the group, and has spent six seasons with the Panthers’ AHL affiliate after being drafted by the team in 2006. He has become more of an AHL depth option at this point, and if the Panthers bring him back it is for nothing more than that.
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