Florida Panthers Should Not Retain Forward Riley Sheahan

The Florida Panthers acquired versatile centerman Riley Sheahan in a mid-season trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2019 NHL season. With Sheahan entering free agency, should the Panthers ultimately re-sign the experienced center?

The native of Canada was selected with the 21st overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings. Sheahan experienced numerous ups and downs during his underwhelming tenure with the Red Wings.

The 27-year-old center posted a career high in points with 36 during the 2014-15 season with the Wings, following a career high in goals with 14 during the 2015-16 campaign.

The Canadian native was relatively inconsistent as a member of the Red Wings and largely underperformed his expectations as a former first-round draft pick.

The 2016-17 season was a historically egregious one for Riley Sheahan. In 80 regular-season contests, Riley recorded only 2 goals (both coming in Detroit’s final game).

Moreover, after going pointless in the first 8 games with the Red Wings during the 2017-18 season, Detroit finally cut ties by shipping off the offensively challenged Sheahan to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Essentially, Sheahan seemingly revived his NHL career with the Penguins since the trade, which occurred early in the 2018 season.

In 73 games played with the Penguins, Riley Sheahan recorded a respectable statistical slash line of 11G, 21A, for 32 points and an impressive plus/minus rating of +4.

Moreover, Sheahan was simply sensational in the faceoff circle as the 3rd line center of the Penguins, winning over 54 percent of his draws that season.

Sheahan also recorded 46 blocked shots and 46 hits, playing a physical style of hockey as a productive two-way centerman.

However, despite having a resurgent 2018 season with the Penguins, the inconsistent tendencies for Sheahan returned during the 2019 campaign.

In 49 regular-season games with the Pittsburgh Penguins before being traded, Riley Sheahan recorded an unsatisfactory line of 7G, 2A, for 9 points and a -7 rating.

Sheahan also regressed in the faceoff circle, winning roughly 49 percent of his draws, a steep drop of 5 percent from the previous campaign.

In essence, Riley’s struggles resulted in fewer minutes and a reduced role with the Penguins, being slotted primarily as the team’s 4th line centerman on most nights.

Eventually, the Penguins became bothered with Sheahan’s unproductivity and traded him, along with Derick Brassard and multiple draft picks, to the Florida Panthers for Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann. Basically, Sheahan became a more improved player since his arrival in Florida.

In 30 contests as a member of the Florida Panthers, Sheahan recorded a respectable tally of 2G, 8A, for 10 points, recording a point in every three games played with FLA.

Also, Sheahan has won approximately 55 percent of his draws, while serving predominantly as the team’s 3rd line center.

However, despite some positives that Sheahan provides such as high faceoff percentage and respectable bottom-six point production, the Panthers should ultimately move on from the impending unrestricted free agent.

Essentially, Sheahan will likely demand a raise as well as a multi-year contract, which isn’t necessarily ideal for the Panthers for various reasons.

First, the Panthers will likely pursue top-tier, expensive UFAs such as Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, most notably.

Hence, the Cats must allocate their cap space towards proven, star-level free agents and re-signing their own restricted free agents like Denis Malgin, MacKenzie Weegar, and Samuel Montembeault.

Additionally, the Panthers already possess tremendously deep depth in terms of their centers. With Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, and Henrik Borgstrom as the team’s top 3 centermen, there’s absolutely no need to give Riley Sheahan a contract worth $2M+ annually.

The Cats have skilled and significantly younger centermen in the system like Denis Malgin and Juho Lammikko – both who deserve a spot on the team’s bottom six for the 2020 NHL season.

Therefore, the Panthers should not deprive their young center talent of necessary playing time by re-signing an inconsistent veteran like Riley Sheahan. Ultimately, the Cats must certainly part ways with the experienced Sheahan during the 2019 offseason.