Weeks following the beginning of the Free Agency period, veteran forward Drew Stafford remains unsigned and the Florida Panthers should certainly inquire.
With plenty of holes to fill on the bottom 6 forward group, potentially signing the experienced Stafford would essentially provide a veteran presence and a consistent point producer. Following the departure of 5 notable forwards from the 2017 Panthers club, the Cats can’t place a boatload of pressure on the inexperienced youngsters right away. Florida must ease them into the big leagues where they can be mentored by a successful veteran like Drew Stafford.
Adding Stafford could prove to be cost-efficient because his value has drastically plummeted due to his struggles and injury history this previous season. In 40 games for the Winnipeg Jets this past season, Drew contributed an underwhelming line of 4G and 9A for 13 points. However, once Winnipeg decided to part ways with the 31-year-old, Drew rejuvenated his career with the Boston Bruins. Stafford compiled an impressive stat line of 4G and 4A for 8 points in 18 regular season games, thus helping to propel Boston to a playoff berth, where he recorded 2 goals in 6 games.
Stafford could prove to be a serviceable player if signed at a fairly reasonable price. The Cats would easily insert Drew into the 3rd line due to his ability to finish around goal. He produced 31 goals in the 2010-11 season (career high) and still maintains a lethal wrist shot when healthy. His pin-point precision and overwhelming accuracy have been essential parts of Drew’s game throughout the course of his accomplished hockey career.
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Stafford generates a variety of scoring opportunities for himself and his linemates when on the ice. Drew is not considered to be an outstanding defender, but his offensive prowess typically makes up for his lackadaisical effort on the defensive end. Personally, I would certainly offer a short-term contract to Drew and see if he’s interested in accepting the offer to become a Panther. He’s ultimately a low-risk, high-reward type of player at this stage of his ongoing career.
Signing the established Stafford would provide an immediate impactful forward to the fold. In the past, Florida has taken an abundance of chances on veteran players who were experiencing a spiral decline in their careers. Upon playing in Florida, these players found the fountain of youth and played some tremendous hockey which essentially helped to continue their careers for an extended period of time. Some notable examples include Jaromir Jagr , Kris Versteeg, Tomáš Fleischmann, Marcel Goc and Sean Bergenheim.
Overall, Drew Stafford still has plenty left in the tank and could potentially contribute more than many would initially expect.