There are not too many franchise records that Sasha Barkov is still chasing as the Florida Panthers captain claims another biggie tonight in Detroit.
Barkov will surpass Jonathan Huberdeau for most games played in the franchise’s 30 year history when he is out there, one would assume, for the opening face-off.
Huberdeau surpassed Stephen Weiss by playing in his 655th game with the Panthers near the end of the 2021-22 season.
When Huberdeau was traded later that summer, it became only a matter of time before Barkov caught him.
Tonight, Barkov plays in No. 672.
“This is my 11th season and it feels like it has been two weeks,” Barkov said last week. “It has been a huge honor and privilege to be a Panther for such a long time. Hopefully for many more years.’’
Although Barkov often says he does not feel like he has been part of the Panthers all that long, it has been a minute since he was a fresh-faced 18-year-old coming over from the Finnish Elite League.
Barkov may not have immediately taken over Weiss’ spot as the team’s No. 1 center — the Panthers drafted Barkov second overall in 2013 knowing they could not afford to pay Weiss any longer — he quickly became one of the team’s top threats.
Coincidentally, Weiss signed a five-year contract as a free agent with Detroit not long after Barkov was drafted only to have the wrist problems which first became a problem with the Panthers cut his career short.
Barkov, 28, now holds just about every single individual record in franchise history aside from assists.
Huberdeau is still the team leader there with 415; Barkov is 21 behind.
He will get that soon enough as he continues to rewrite the team record book almost on a nightly basis.
Barkov is in the second season of the richest contract the Panthers have ever given out: Eight years and $80 million.
He signed that extension in 2021.
“It would be impressive if he was 35, so it is incredibly impressive for him to reach all these milestones for a franchise that has been around for 30 years,” coach Paul Maurice said before his team left on its three-game road trip.
“It just shows the impact that he not only has had on this team, but in hockey. The games played is a number for him, but is impact is not just the games but how he lives at the rink, how we train, how we practice. There is a belief when you come to the rink that you have a chance because you have a player like Barkov on your side.”
Over the past 10-plus years, Barkov has become an institution in the South Florida sports landscape and it would be hard to imagine him playing — or living — anywhere else.
The Panthers have gone from a franchise that had only been to the playoffs once since 2000 when Barkov arrived to making it the past three seasons and four times overall.
Last spring, the Panthers made their deepest run in the playoffs since 1996 as they ended up going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
“It has been a lot of fun getting to know the area,’’ Barkov told FHN before the season began.
“This is my second home. Finland is much different than here, but I have loved living and playing here since Day 1. And now, the organization keeps getting better and I am happier than ever.
“Things are on the right track. We just have to keep working, keep putting in the effort and keep building on what we have started here. We want to keep going, keep getting better and we still have a goal we need to achieve. But this is the place to be right now.’’
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ DETROIT RED WINGS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
- Streaming/TV: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL/Panthers App
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- This season: @Detroit Thursday, March 2; @Florida Jan. 17, March 30
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 36-19-6, 5 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday @ Chicago, 8 p.m.