Florida Panthers Need Offense To Stay In Playoff Race


While the Florida Panthers are surprising many fans and analysts around the league by being in contention for one of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Wild Card spots, it is no mystery that their offense is severely struggling. They currently are 29th in the league in goals scored with 87 in 37 games. If you’re not a mathematician, that’s about 2.35 goals per game. The only team with less goals scored this season are the Buffalo Sabres.

Mainly, the stellar play of goaltender Roberto Luongo and the Panthers defense are key reasons of why they’re sticking around in the playoff race almost midway through the season. Luongo currently has a 2.28 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. Between him and the defense, the Panthers have given up just 97 goals and have allowed the 6th least in the league.

With those stats, it makes sense that 25 of their 37 games have been decided by one goal and they have been pretty successful in them with a 13-3-9 record in those nail biters.

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The Panthers power play has also been dismal this season at 28th in the NHL and they have only scored on 13.9% of their chances.

With all that being said, it is clear that in order for the team to stay in a playoff spot, they need to score more goals. The Panthers have many young players with a ton of potential such as forwards Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander BarkovJonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, and Jimmy Hayes along with defensemen Aaron Ekblad, Dmitry Kulikov, and Erik Gudbranson.

There are also some prospects that should be full-time NHL players in the future such as forwards Rocco Grimaldi and Quinton Howden along with defensemen Mike Matheson and Alex Petrovic just to name a few.

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It is worth mentioning that the Panthers have a decently hefty list of unrestricted free agents as well after this season’s end. Forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Tomas Kopecky, Sean Bergenheim are all veterans that some teams may or may not bite on that Tallon may try to dangle as a piece in a trade with a prospect.

Ekblad seems to be a rookie sensation this season, Bjugstad just signed a 6-year deal with Florida recently, and Luongo will be the starter likely for the remainder of his contract in Florida. One would think that those three players would be completely safe from any transaction.

Any other player, some more than others, could possibly have a chance at being dealt to acquire a proven scorer. Some of you may be saying “They can’t trade Huberdeau or Barkov with so much potential ahead of them!” Although it’s unlikely, remember that the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky, so anything can happen.

The Panthers are set at the Center position on all four lines and Drew Shore having a terrific season in the American Hockey League affiliate San Antonio Rampage. In that case, Tallon would likely be looking at acquiring a Left or Right Winger. If a trade did occur,  it would likely not be completed from general manager Dale Tallon until the time gets closer to the trade deadline on March 2nd. Of course, that is if the Panthers are still in contention for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference in the next month and a half.

"Let’s break down some of the names mentioned on message boards and throughout social media."

  • One of the names mentioned that I have been seeing a lot is Toronto Maple Leafs Right Wing Phil Kessel. Within the last week, I couldn’t help but think it’s ridiculous to happen. After head coach Randy Carlyle was fired on Tuesday, maybe it’s not so impossible in the circus that is Toronto. Realistically, he would be an absolute great asset for the Panthers to get. He’s right in the prime of his career at age 27 and is a point per game player with 80 points or more in two of his last three seasons. Keep in mind, two seasons ago, while he only had 52 points, he only played 48 games because of the lockout. He also is likely good for eight to twelve power play goals per season, which would be an absolute huge need as the team is currently only on pace for about 35 this season. Of course, the Leafs would expect a plethora of young players, prospects, and picks in return. Some big names that Panthers fans may not want to dangle in a trade would likely have to be included if there is any chance of a Kessel to Florida trade happening.
  • Another name that has been mentioned lately a bit is New Jersey Devils Right Wing Jaromir Jagr. Some fans may say “He’s old and washed up. Why would the Panthers want him?” Yes, he is 42 years-old but did you know that he is on pace right now this season for 51 points? He is an unrestricted free agent after this season and the Devils don’t look to be going anywhere close to the postseason. They may just ask for a high pick or two in the upcoming summer draft.
  • There is also Carolina Hurricanes Left Wing Jiri Tlusty. At 26 years-old, he is on pace for about 30-35 points on the Eastern Conference’s worst team. He is an unrestricted free agent after this season, but while still at a young age, it’s possible that Tallon may want to look at him long-term. As another team not having a chance at the playoffs, it might be enough to acquire him with a 2nd or 3rd round pick.
  • The Devils Right Wing Michael Ryder is another unrestricted free agent that has had his name thrown around. He is on pace for about 30 points this season. Many fans however do not like his streaky play and at 34 years old seems too similar to a few veterans already on the Panthers roster. Still, do not count him out as one Tallon might be considering.

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  • Winnipeg Jets Left Wing Evander Kane‘s name has been thrown around in rumors for a couple of years now. At 23 years-old and 15 points in 26 games this season, the future could be bright for him and he would be a player that teams would likely want to sign long-term. However, the Jets, like the Panthers are in contention as well for a playoff spot at this point. Tallon also loves players that can bring character into the locker room as much as having talent on the ice. Kane has a reputation of not being great at that. Many hockey fans might remember him posting a picture through social media during the NHL lockout holding a stack of money like a phone. While the rumors will continue to swirl about the Jets wanting to unload him, I personally do not see him ending up in Florida.
  • Edmonton Oilers Right Wing Jordan Eberle has been another name that has been widely talked about as the team made a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins to unload left wing David Perron last week. He is also young at 24 years-old with a positive future ahead of him and is on pace for about 45-50 points this season. Last season, he surprised many around the league with 65 points in 80 games. The Oilers would likely want some young defensemen in return as they have had a history over the last few years of drafting forwards in the first round. The question is how likely would Tallon trade the likes of Kulikov, Gudbranson, or Matheson in return if that is what Edmonton asked for?
  • Former Denver Post writer for the Colorado Avalanche, Adrian Dater, has claimed that Florida is one of the teams that has interest in Center Ryan O’Reilly. Whether that is true or not, he is a restricted free agent after this season receiving $6 million per season. He is on pace for about 40-45 points this season and surprised the league last season with 64 points in 80 games. However, with the logjam Florida has at the Center position, one wonders how likely Tallon would pull strings for him and whether it is worth it or not when he would need a new contract soon.
  • Another unrestricted free agent Center Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes could be an option. At age 32, he can still get about 45-50 points per season. The Coyotes are very unlikely to earn a spot in the postseason, so it may not take much for the Panthers to acquire him besides say a 2nd round pick. Again, there lies the thought of where he who would be moved with the Panthers being currently set at Center.
  • Last, but not least that I will mention is St. Louis Blues Center T.J. Oshie.  He is currently under contract until the 2017-2018 season and can put up probably about 40 points this season. A bit of a regression after he scored 60 points last season and 54 in the 2011-2012 season. If the lockout had not occurred, he was on pace for about 67 points. He is around the time prime of his career now at age 28, so again while the Panthers are busy at Center, it’s possible that Tallon may attempt a trade for him. With three more seasons left in his contract, I would expect that some larger names on the Panthers roster may have to be thrown into play such as Aleksander Barkov along with prospects and picks.