In another season filled with missed playoff hockey, the Florida Panthers will now turn their full attention over to the summer.
In all fairness, the Florida Panthers have been good as of late, winning their previous two games by a margin of four or more goals.
But much like last season, this type of play is purely worthless now; they needed this type of run from the very start of the season.
The Cats sit seven points out from the final wild-card spot, owning no games in hand on Philadelphia, Montreal, or even Columbus. In other words: there’s just too many variables that need to occur in order to make this work.
So now that you’ve conceded (or even accepted) that this team just isn’t reaching the postseason this year, we can now shift gears over to this summer’s free agency period.
Over the last month, GM Dale Tallon has cleared enough space that’ll give the Panthers enough flexibility and room to weigh their options on the open market.
Tallon expressed these exact thoughts in a longer, more detailed message in a press conference last month:
"“It was a busy day and a good day for the Panthers organization. While maintaining a strong roster for the stretch run, we’ve also successfully positioned our club for the future over the past few weeks by stocking draft picks and creating the salary cap flexibility we need to take an aggressive approach in free agency.”"
Ideally, none of this comes as a surprise to many, considering that the Panthers have been linked to two of free agency’s most coveted stars.
The first, of course, is none other than netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who would immediately replace Luongo as the Panthers’ starter.
Goaltending is arguably the Panthers’ biggest concern heading into the summer. It’s an issue that hasn’t been addressed over the last few seasons, something that’s long overdue on Tallon’s to-do list.
The second is free agency’s most wanted prize: Artemi Panarin. The Russian rocket is expected to leave the scenes of Ohio and take his talents elsewhere.
After all, he’s in the prime of his career and understands that this is his final chance of securing a pay raise in a destination of his choice.
In addition, the Panthers will also be looking to strengthen their blue line, whether it comes through a trade or free agency. It’s an issue that hasn’t been addressed entirely and one that has to be dealt with in order to take the next step.
The Cats have a lot of work to do this summer, which begins at the draft in June. With a cupboard stashed with draft picks, Dale will be eyeing to pick up some hidden gems in the first few rounds to strengthen the farm.
Then, he’ll have the opportunity during and/or after to try an swing a trade or two, with hopes of providing a quick, yet immediate fix to a certain spot(s) on the roster.
Finally, the July period will provide him the opportunity to convince a couple of stars to take their talents down to Sunrise to help build a contender around a growing core.
In essence, after another wasted season where playoffs were missed and regarded as a “must,” the Panthers now must translate those objectives into the following season, hopeful that their team is fully stocked up and ready to go.