This summer’s offseason has been a quiet yet productive one for the Florida Panthers so far. However, is it enough to push them over the hump?
For those of you who follow the Panthers closely, you knew that this offseason was going to be a quiet one. With limited cap space to work with and with all the notable free agents receiving a payday of some sorts, the Cats had to get creative to address their needs. And creative they were!
Going into the summer, Florida had three needs that required addressing. Those three were (in no particular order):
- Acquiring a top-six scoring winger.
- Finding another shutdown defenseman to add to the mix.
- Signing a goaltender to replace Harri Sateri.
On June 1st, the Panthers got to work and crossed off #2 from the list. They went out and signed defenseman Bogdan Kiselevich from the KHL.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kiselevich, the Russian-born defenseman played with CSKA Moscow, recording 16 assists over 44 games last season. Standing at 6’0″ and 207lbs, Kiselevich prides himself on a defensive-first style of play, ensuring that his number one assignment is the defensive zone.
Kiselevich will be battling for the #7 role on the Panthers’ blue line, going up against the likes of MacKenzie Weegar and Ian McCoshen. Bogdan won’t feature in every game this season, but he should be able to crack the lineup in at least 30-35 games.
Barring any injuries, Kiselevich is looking from the outside in. He isn’t a favorite to start on opening night, but who’s to say that he can’t play a productive role as a rotational, depth defenseman? For one year at $925k/annually, the signing comes at a cost-efficient price and one that is low-risk and high-reward.
Three weeks later on June 19th, the Florida Panthers added a check-mark to #1 on the list and acquired winger Mike Hoffman and a 2018 seventh-round draft pick from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2019 second-round, 2018 fourth-round, and 2018 fifth-round draft selection.
While many, including myself, were surprised by this acquisition, the Panthers managed to acquire a close to 30-goal scorer for next to nothing. Part of the reason for Hoffman’s low value and return was the baggage that he was bringing in with the whole fiancée fiasco.
If you’re one that’s worried about that particular situation hurting the Cats, don’t! Rest assured that Dale Tallon has it under control and had actually looked into the allegations before pulling the trigger:
"“We did our homework and we discussed it with a lot of different people. We feel that’s in the past … we’re very confident he’ll be embraced by our team and by their wives and girlfriends. We have a strong culture down there now. Talking with Mike and all the parties, it will work out to our benefit.”"
Last season, in 82 games with the Ottawa Senators, Hoffman tallied 22G, 34A, and 56Pts altogether. In previous years, Mike’s potted 27 (2014-15), 29 (2015-16), and 26 goals (2016-17), showcasing that he can score on a regular basis.
His addition to the team means that he’s another 20+ goal scorer included into the mix of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgeni Dadonov, Vincent Trocheck, and Nick Bjugstad. Add Hoffman, and you got yourself a loaded weaponry ready to be unleashed. Try stopping that!
GM Dale Tallon recognized the need for another top-six scoring winger, and he was determined to find his target to put the Panthers over the hump for this season:
"“He’s 28, he can score, he can skate, he’s got a got a cannon for a shot. We missed the playoffs by a point. We needed to add some speed and skill to our lineup, and this turns out to be the fit for us.”"
Florida officially crossed out their third and final need by signing goaltender Michael Hutchinson on July 1st. Free Agent Frenzy ended up being a quiet day for the Cats, largely because of the limited cap space they had to work with.
But with #1 and #2 from the list addressed well in advance, the Panthers didn’t need to go all-in on that day. Instead, they could focus on replacing Harri Sateri, who signed with Detroit.
Hutchinson, who’s currently 28-years-old, has experience playing in both the NHL and AHL. With the Winnipeg Jets, Michael has featured in 102 regular season contests, recording a .910 SV% and 2.65 GAA.
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At the AHL level, Hutchinson was famously known for his influence in St. John’s playoffs push back in 2014. During that time, Hutchinson led the IceCaps to the Calder Cup Finals, posting a 12-9 record, 1.95 GAA, .938 SV%, and 3 shutouts. Because of his remarkable play, Michael was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy, which is given to the most valuable player in the AHL playoffs.
A little younger than Sateri, Hutchinson holds more experience playing in North America and serves as the better of the two. Without any doubt, the Panthers upgraded and found themselves a competent backup who not only can play the #3 role but can also step in and fill as a starter.
So, after all of this, how did the Panthers do this summer? Well, they actually fared okay and didn’t get stuck with any bad contracts. For what it’s worth, the Cats addressed their needs in the most creative fashion as possible.
Knowing that limited cap space would rule them out with the big dogs on July 1st, the Panthers decided to part ways with a few of their picks to land a goal-scoring winger. And to be quite honest, parting ways with those picks needed to be done, especially when you have an abundance of them.
Bogdan Kiselevich’s signing, which flew under the radar, was great work by the Panthers’ European scouting crew. Hutchinson, on the other hand, was like finding a diamond in the rough, as the addition will only help the Panthers in goal for the next season or two.
He may only serve as a ‘band-aid’ to the Panthers’ problems in between the pipes, but he’s a player who’s trusted to get the job done regardless of the circumstance. With that kind of experience across the NHL and AHL, I think it’s fair to say that Hutchinson can hold his own, and even better than Harri Sateri can.
In short, while the Panthers didn’t have a ‘Toronto Maple Leafs-like offseason’ where they went out and signed a high-profile player, they managed to put their needs over their wants, and because of that, I can remain content with what they’ve done so far, even if no other signings or acquisitions occur.