In terms of who will start in front of Luongo and Bobrovsky, the Panthers certainly lacked too much quality. There were the odd few who stood out, and that’s who makes it onto this list.
The third pairing consists of two quality servants of the franchise. Dmitry Kulikov was one of just three players to be on both playoff teams and was a solid player throughout the start of the decade. Kulikov’s 138 points in his seven seasons with the club were not what he was known for. Kulikov was a consistent defenseman, putting up a combined +8 in plus-minus in his last two seasons.
Bryan McCabe served as a Captain for the Panthers but only spent roughly 14 months with the Panthers in the 2010s. He finished 2010 with 43 points, tied for third amongst points that season. He had 22 points in the first 48 games in the 2010-11 season before being traded to the New York Rangers. McCabe was mostly known for his time with Toronto, but was a great veteran in the Panthers organization.
While he was a shell of his former self, Ed Jovanoski’s leadership throughout the last three years back with the team that drafted him was detrimental for the Cats. Jovanovski’s 66 games played in 2011-12 on the second pairing really boosted the team defensively, getting to the playoffs as the third seed. He would play just 44 games after that due to injury, but led from the sidelines and helped develop younger players.
Florida’s move to trade for Keith Yandle to play as a power play quarterback has been nothing short of excellent. 90 points through his first three and a half seasons on the power play is fantastic for a defenseman, with 163 assists to boot. While his defense is subpar at times as Yandle slows down with age to go along with some hilarious locker room antics, there’s no debating that he’s been a top player for the Panthers this decade.
First Pairing: Brian Campbell (2011-2016) and Aaron Ekblad (2014-2019)
The first pairing on the Panthers roster from October 2014 to April 2016, Brian Campbell and Aaron Ekblad have been the best two defenseman to grace the Florida Panthers since 2010. Campbell, one of GM Dale Tallon‘s first big transactions, has to be the most balanced defenseman, not only putting up 175 points across five seasons, but also giving a +31 in the Panthers’ 2015-16 playoff season. Campbell was also one of three players to make the playoffs with the Panthers both times this decade.
Ekblad has been fantastic since being selected 1st overall back in the 2014 Entry Draft. After winning the Calder Trophy in 2015, Ekblad would make his first all-star appearance and playoff appearance in 2016. He’d endure a forgettable 2016-17 campaign in which he went through multiple concussions under Tom Rowe‘s coaching, but has slowly built his way back as a solid defenseman. This season, Ekblad has had a Norris Caliber season under new HC Joel Quenneville, on pace to finish with a career high in points and plus-minus.