It may be March 1, but since we ran out of days in the previous month, welcome to our February Florida Panthers Mailbag!
As always, our loyal readers bought a lot of good stuff to the table.
To answer some quick questions, here is what happened on Monday: Brett Connolly cleared waivers at noon so he remains with the Panthers as expected. Where they put him now should be cleared up later this afternoon.
With Anthony Duclair out tonight and, per Joel Quenneville, the next week, perhaps they keep Connolly in the lineup.
You have to think waiving him was done to give them some roster flexibility.
Once a player clears, they have 30 days to place them in the minors or taxi squad, so any move (I do not see Florida sending Connolly to Syracuse in any scenario) could come later.
Also, Noel Acciari is back and will be activated off the IR. Duclair could replace him there.
Chris Driedger in net tonight against Carolina.
Anyway, let’s open up the Mailbag!
Hey, George, glad we get to support your coverage of the Panthers.
So for the foreseeable future, the Panthers are going to live or die with Sergei Bobrovsky. Chris Driedger is a UFA after this season, and will likely command more than more than we want to pay him.
Surely there is a team out there that feels that they are a young, cheap, competent goalie away from contending (Pittsburgh, maybe?), so is there a deal to be made, would the Panthers want to make that deal, and what do you think we could get in return? — Kenneth Wilson
Thanks as always for the support Kenneth. I do appreciate it.
This is an intriguing question. One would think the Panthers are OK with exactly how things are going. Yeah, they want to see more of the Bobrovsky we saw last week against Dallas and Carolina and there is a thought there that they are going to get it.
If that’s the case, then you hand the net to Bob and let him run with it. But the schedule may not allow that.
There are going to be a lot of games in a short amount of time and, at least this year, you like having the security blanket of a guy like Driedger being here and able to give you a chance to win every time he gets in.
He also makes you feel pretty good if Bob gets hurt or has a couple of bad games.
Now, that said, teams would be willing to give you something good for Driedger at the deadline, no doubt. He’s not coming back next year. He’s looked at as a starting NHL goalie now and is going to get a starter’s contract. Florida, with Bob here for the next five years, cannot afford to keep both.
I think the Panthers will forego the future rewards trading Driedger brings for the win-now reality he helps you with. Of course if they think Sam Montembeault can come back and be that security blanket, then maybe.
But I think Driedger has become a big enough part of this team that moving him, unless you get pieces coming back which can help you win now, will only hurt what they’ve got going.
There were rumblings in the offseason that Spencer Knight could force his way out of the Panthers organization. Any truth to that? If not, do you expect him to sign this year or next? — @CF3234
Those rumblings always seem to surround the Panthers, right?
If Knight looks at the Bobrovsky contract as a deterrent to his future in the NHL, well, maybe. But that means he has to stay in college another two years after this to become a free agent unless the Panthers trade his rights.
The Panthers have a great relationship with the Boston College folks and everything I have heard leads me to believe they have a good relationship with Knight as well.
With the investment they are putting into the goaltending situation, this looks like a pretty good place for a young goalie to come.
I would not be surprised to see Knight return to BC for his junior year, but I would also not be surprised if he signed with the Panthers when his sophomore season is done this spring either.
Hey George. Any word on any potential third jerseys? Also, do you think we will be buyers at the deadline, maybe to try and shore up our bottom 6? — Terence Graham
Hey Terence. Nothing new on the third jersey front, perhaps they keep these reverse retro ones. People seem to dig them. Word was, the thirds were going to include the old logo and these RR do it justice in my opinion.
As far as the trade deadline goes, yeah, the Panthers are going to be buyers.
But the market is going to be really weird what with Canadian teams having to quarantine U.S.-based players for two weeks upon being acquired.
I would think Florida is looking for a veteran center who is good in the faceoff circle. And, based on what they have done in training camp, don’t be surprised if they add more defensemen. They can’t get enough d-men.
Do you think the “Taxi” squad is just for this year or can you see it sticking around? — @AndrewLevine5
I like the taxi squad, I think fringe players like it as well. You get the perks of the NHL experience, get in some games and get paid pretty good as well.
But, if the Covid-19 danger is behind us AND we have an 82-game NHL schedule with a full AHL return, I do not see it coming back.
With AHL teams backing out and the ones playing having a shortened schedule and likely no playoffs, this taxi situation is fine for this season. But next year, NHL teams are going to need their players to play in games and not just practice.
Any word on when Acciari will be back? I think our team is below average on faceoffs and starts too many shifts trying to get the puck back. Acciari would help a bit. However, we could really use a face off specialist, especially against teams like Carolina (Rod Brind’Amour was one of the best, and apparently is good at teaching it to his players). Any thoughts on who might be available? — Dale Huber
Acciari will be back tonight and I see him taking a lot of draws. The Panthers have not been good in the faceoff circle in a lot of games lately and it really hurt the power play against Carolina on Saturday night.
I don’t know who would be available on the market but the Panthers are looking that’s for sure. And, they’re not alone.
While the Panthers are off to a great start, it seems the team cannot find the back of the net over the past week or so. Some say “HOT” goalies but the team hasn’t played a full “60” minutes over this stretch. Are they becoming overconfident and taking opponents lightly? — @ChrisAGrega
I don’t think they are taking opponents lightly. Maybe Detroit, but they got off to a great start in that second game before getting hammered in the second period.
Jonathan Bernier was a hot goalie, Anton Khudobin as well. I don’t think they are overlooking anyone, but when the goals aren’t going in, you can feel the frustration start to mount.
In this 56 game schedule, every game feels like a playoff game. Teams are bringing their A-game every night.
With the new facilities being built, and the team currently practicing at the BB&T Center, have the Panthers skated their last practice at the Ice Den? — @yodiwan1
I don’t think so. As far as I know, the new Fort Lauderdale facility will not be ready for next season so I expect to see the Panthers back at the Den next season for rookie camps, training camp, etc.
This year, with all of the Covid precautions, the team felt it better to just move everything to one place and the arena allowed them the extra space to spread out.
I am sure the equipment guys are thrilled they don’t have to pack everything up and shuttle between the two facilities.
Once camp ends, however, perhaps the team goes back to keeping things at the arena but there will be concerts and stuff going on next year. They don’t have to worry about the building being used for anything else while they’re home right now, but they will next season.
Isn’t it time to reserve two slots (one third, one fourth) for the rookies? Punt/Taxi Connolly, on Hinostroza? — @EdPurchaseIV
I think Quenneville has received good results when players haven’t played for a while and then gotten a chance. With the taxi squad and a 23-man roster, you can still move things around. Right now, what they have been doing is working.
Connolly, I think, ends up on the taxi squad either today or down the road. Who knows? Maybe he plays tonight, scores a couple of goals and stays in the lineup. That’s the beauty of hockey; you never know what’s going to happen from game to game.
Do you see the Panthers looking to trade anyone at the deadline? If so, who would that be and why? — @BBarman72
I think there are a couple of people they would trade — if they could. That’s a story for another day. Realistically, they like the team they have but they will try and upgrade things at the deadline. Bill Zito has a bigger staff than the Panthers had before and there is a lot of scouting going on.
Hey George! Seems the guys that the Panthers are trying to unload are the vets with bad contracts. Do you think this is from ownership or Zito trying to make some cap room? I hope to see Denisenko in the lineup and not watching from the press box. — fan4pan
Hey fan4pan! I think ownership is giving Zito the ability to do with the roster what he wants. And he is a guy who sees some of the veteran guys with the big money deals as replaceable for less money and, more importantly, better production.
I think that is where they’re looking. I don’t think they’re looking to cut salary unless it is to improve the team.
Look at losing Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman. While that was a lot of scoring going out the door, Zito felt he could replace those goals with younger players making a lot less money. That’s called value when it works. So far this season, it has worked.
Hey George, continuing to go winless in the reverse retro jerseys can we agree to ditch these cursed jerseys and move on from our past history of loosing and continue a new history of winning? — DGPanthers88
Hey DGPanthers88, I don’t think what the players wear is a curse. Plus, they’ve only worn them three times. If they never win in them, maybe you have a point.
But I think they look good. When a team is losing, it doesn’t matter what they’re wearing.
And they have had this new look since 2016. They haven’t won a whole lot in those, either.
Hi George, loaded question here. Watching duclair this season it’s clear he has talent but more specifically he is blazing fast with the puck.
Although he does create scoring chances on the rush I think that he’s holding that Barkov line back. Q was messing with the top 6 last game, with the play of Vatrano and Marchment how do you see the top 6 getting shifted around?
My opinion is to put Duclair with less talented players because he’ll individually make great plays especially against bottom 6 talent. What are your thoughts on how the lineup looks the rest of the season? — Cody Shamon
Hi Cody, loaded answer here. I think Duclair has been a great addition to the team and that line, but perhaps things had gotten a little stale. So, he broke them up the other night.
With Duclair out for the next week, Vatrano will get a look on that top line. He is playing with a lot of confidence right now, so this may just be the perfect time and situation to make that move.
I think you can slide Duclair throughout the top 9 and he’s going to be fine. The lines are a fluid situation. Some you don’t ever want to break up, but guess what? Eventually they get broken up.
Duclair will be back on the top line eventually.
Hey George. I know a lot can still happen this season but is a Bobrovsky buyout a potential option for ownership? I know the Panthers won’t save a ton of money and it will prolong his stay on the books, but if Chris Driedger continues to impress and Bobrovsky continues to struggle, especially since the Panthers could have a legit shot at the playoffs this year and Bob’s NMC ahead of the expansion draft, it might be the best of some non-savory options. — Ben Fisher
Hey Ben. No. Buying out Bobrovsky’s contract is a non-starter and would set this team back for years to come.
If you buy him out with five years left, with the way that contract is structured, it would be the ugliest buyout in the history of the NHL.
Don’t just take my word for it: Here is the breakdown from CapFriendly.com —
Anyway, the way the contract was built was with the thought that you get five prime years of Bobrovsky and perhaps buy it out or whatever in the final two years.
Bobrovsky is the goalie here. Get used to it.
Why do our young players take so long to develop? And where are we going to get some unexpected scoring from? It would appear that we’re now basically even with Dallas and Carolina. We’re going to need a spark to start games faster and step on the necks of some of these other teams. Who do you think it might come from? — drjoel33
Which young players are you speaking of? I assume Tippett and Denisenko. Hey, if these guys were top five picks I would agree with you. They think those two players are going to be good but it takes time.
Would you say the latest Florida struggles are attuned to Acciari getting injured? — @Dragons_Quest
Not really. I think Acciari being out has not been ideal, but the fourth line — where he has spent 95 percent of the season — has played well without him. They miss him in the faceoff circle, will be thrilled to have him back on the PK. But they have done OK without him being there.
Hey George. If you were Gary Bettman and could pick any city for the league to expand to, what city would you pick and why? — Jordan Moses
Hey Jordan. If it was up to me, I would go to Cleveland. Or Baltimore. But that’s so I can go there for games.
The NHL is not going to Baltimore or Cleveland, we all know this.
I know there are a lot of people looking at Houston (huge US market) and Quebec City (rabid fanbase) for the next round of expansion (which is not needed), but I don’t think either is going to happen for various reasons.
Kansas City is a place I could see an NHL team going. They have the arena and it is a great sports town. I would like going to KC for games.
Charlotte is a big, growing market. They could make a push down the road. I know they’re trying to get MLB to go there.
With Vegas, Seattle and Nashville taken, how many cool places need a team?
When it comes to the ‘hip’ factor, Houston and Q-City don’t qualify. Neither does Kansas City or Charlotte. That leaves Austin and New Orleans. Don’t see them going there, either.
So I did Panther recaps on YouTube for 4 seasons. In the games I have missed , including this season, the team is 25-12-6, clearly showing I was the problem.
My question is who will offer me protection from the mob should I start making videos again and the team starts losing again? — Flying Fluffy
Start doing them again, people like them. But don’t call me if the mob starts coming after you.
How many hats are in the GR headwear collection? Inquiring minds wants to know! – @DavidDwork
Some questions cannot be answered. I honestly have no idea.
I have about 50 in the daily rotation. More packed away. I do like going through the packed up hats every couple of months and finding some lost gems. It’s like a trip to the mall without having to spend any money.
Hey George, love your work. Is a hotdog a sandwich? — Don Johnson
Hey Don, ditto. We have answered this question in the past, but since you’re new to the site, I will answer.
A bun is the shape of a sub roll; you use condiments, sometimes toppings (hello, Chicago). If I make a ham sandwich, I will put mustard and pickles on it. If I make a hot dog, same.
The only thing missing from a hot dog that you put on a sandwich, I would guess, is lettuce.
Don’t think I have ever seen lettuce on a hot dog. But pickles, onions, tomatoes, mustard, yup. Some sickos even put mayo on a hot dog. Not me, but I have seen it done.