Florida Panthers: Frank Vatrano is Proving to be a Massive Bargain

SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 21: Frank Vatrano #72 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the San Jose Sharks at the BB&T Center on January 21, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 21: Frank Vatrano #72 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the San Jose Sharks at the BB&T Center on January 21, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Since arriving in Florida from division rivals Boston, Frank Vatrano has completely surpassed all of his achievements from his former team.

The former undrafted winger from the University of Massachusetts Amherst seemed to have it all laid out in Boston.

Frank Vatrano was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and decommitted from Boston College to play with the Boston Jr. Bruins, where he excelled at UMA and AHL Providence, earning rookie of the month honors for scoring 10 goals in 10 games. He would start the 2015-16 AHL season with an astounding 55 points in 36 games.

This red-hot start earned him a call-up to the team he had worked so hard to make. In his NHL debut, Vatrano scored against one of Boston’s Original Six rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, in a Bruins win. All of the pieces seemed to be coming into shape for the young forward.

His first two seasons were fair for a young bottom-six forward, with 29 points (18 goals, 11 assists) across 83 games.

While the talent was there to score goals, Vatrano still needed time to settle into the NHL landscape in a competitive organization such as the Boston Bruins, who’ve been a playoff team in 10 of their last 12 seasons, with two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, beating Vancouver back in 2010-11.

For Vatrano, this kind of culture didn’t help the winger develop. Being forced in and out of the lineup, the forward only played in 22 games of the 2017-18 season for the Bruins, scoring twice.

The Bruins, knowing his contract was expiring at the end of the year, looked to cash in on Vatrano at the trade deadline. They weren’t sure on Vatrano’s inconsistency, valuing Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork more on the bottom six.

Looking for young scoring depth, Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon instantly looked at the chance to swoop for Vatrano.

Yet unproven, Tallon traded a third-round pick for Vatrano, helping Boston regain a third-round selection after moving theirs to the New York Rangers for defenseman Nick Holden.

Tallon had high praise of the forward’s work ethic on the ice, his passion to battle for loose pucks, and his willingness to shoot the puck.

The Panthers were struggling to find depth scoring at this point, with Denis Malgin, Jamie McGinn, and Colton Sceviour really struggling to find a consistent goalscorer’s touch.

Vatrano’s impact, once he hit the ice, was felt in a Panthers sweater. Like Boston, Vatrano scored on his debut against a team rival, a tap-in set up by Vincent Trocheck in a shootout win over the New York Rangers.

Vatrano averaged a point every other game in his first season in Florida, with 5 goals and 3 assists in 16 games.

While his role has been mixed, it hasn’t stopped Vatrano contributing. This season, Vatrano blew his career highs out of the water, tallying 24 goals, 15 assists, and 8 power-play points in his first full season with the Cats.

His positioning and willingness to get to the net have made him an asset on every line. On this goal, when Mike Hoffman breaks the puck in through the center, Vatrano ghosts into the zone on the left flank.

The Sharks don’t mark him well enough, as he breaks to the crease and receives an excellent backhand pass from Hoffman, potting past Sharks netminder Martin Jones.

This kind of form earned Vatrano a deserved contract extension; a three-year, $7.59 million deal signed back in February ensures that Vatrano will remain a Panther until 2022. This deal could be an absolute bargain for the Panthers in Vatrano retains his form from this past season.

While 39 points in 81 games doesn’t seem appealing, it came while Vatrano’s cap hit was under one million dollars.

Amongst standard level deals, Vatrano ranked 8th amongst forwards in cost per point, in the same category of other forwards such as Toronto’s Andreas Johnsson, Ottawa’s Anthony Duclair, and Tampa Bay’s Yanni Gourde. Not bad for a Boston throwaway.

Vatrano’s extension will remain as a $2.53 million cap hit for each of the next three seasons. That figure ranks him as the 11th highest-paid player on the team, which gives them the best bang for their buck out of all of the players if he keeps his form.

If his extension were set for this year, he would be the second-best forward amongst this cap group, with his point contribution ahead of Oliver BjorkstrandMiles Wood, and Matt Martin, only behind Carolina’s Teuvo Teravainen.

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If Vatrano can continue to improve and find consistency, he might have one of the better contracts for a bottom-six forward in the NHL.