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Are the Florida Panthers Done In Free Agency?



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Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was one of the biggest names signed by the Florida Panthers when free agency opened on July 1. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Florida Panthers were busy when the NHL free agency period opened on July 1 but have not done much since signing Evan Rodrigues to a four-year deal on Day 2.

With training camp slated to start in just over a month, is general manager Bill Zito done?

Looking at what is left on the market, it certainly appears so — for now, anyway.

As things stand, the Panthers addressed their top-6 forwards with the signing of Rodrigues (who replaces the traded Anthony Duclair) as well as their bottom-6 with the acquisitions of Kevin Stenlund and Steven Lorentz.

The Panthers also signed former Buffalo forward Rasmus Asplund to a two-way deal so he could find his way onto the opening night roster as well.

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With Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour expected to miss the start of the season due to post-playoff surgeries, Zito focused in on signing defensemen.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niko Mikkola, Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Reilly are all coming aboard — with Lucas Carlsson re-signing after spending much of his past season with AHL Charlotte.

Throw in goalie Anthony Stolarz and the Panthers look pretty well set at the moment.

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Looking at what is left on the market, yeah, the Panthers are probably done.

There just ain’t a lot out there, folks.

Comings & Goings: The Florida Panthers Free Agency Tracker

One fairly prominent player is forward Tomas Tatar and there are reports he may land with the Pittsburgh Penguins before camp opens.

Former Chicago stalwarts Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are both still available and, if this was a few years ago, would have already been snapped up at a hefty price.

But today, there have been reports that Toews could retire and Kane will not be back from offseason surgery until the season has already started.

Could the Panthers have interest in Kane when he is healthy?

Perhaps. Kane spent his career with the Blackhawks and won the Stanley Cup there three times before being traded to the Rangers at the deadline.

Now a free agent, the thought is Kane will be ready to go sometime around the New Year and will pick the team he wants to play for.

If the Panthers look like a fit, they may be able to figure something out when it comes to the salary cap.

The Kane decision is a ways away and much can happen between today and when he is able to return.

As for additions to the Panthers, expect a professional tryout or two for veteran players who have not found a contract prior to camp.

Last year, the Panthers brought Eric Staal to camp on a PTO but that was only because of the team’s salary cap situation.

There was little doubt when camp opened that Staal would have been signed on a one-year deal — like the one he eventually got — had the Panthers not been up against the cap.

While Florida remains at the cap ceiling now, there is the possibility either Ekblad or Montour starts the season on long-term injured reserve allowing the Panthers a little flexibility.

Someone like veteran forward Paul Stastny, who played for Paul Maurice in Winnipeg, could be a possibility to get a shot with the Panthers if he does not sign somewhere else first.

Staal is also out there but it would be surprising if he would take a PTO from the Panthers unless there was a job waiting for him at the end of camp.

With Stenlund signed, right now, there is not.

Yes, while the Panthers certainly will be making a few more moves before training camp opens in September, there are no more big splashes left to be made — at least not in free agency.


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Every single player the Panthers signed belongs in the minors. They haven’t addressed any needs, except the need for live bodies. They needed size and physicality on defense, and didn’t address that. They needed two dominant faceoff winners who could play third or fourth line roles, and didn’t address that. They’ve taken a step back. And Rodrigues is NOT a replacement for Duclair. He’s a cheap imposter at best. Duclair has hit the 20 goal mark three times and almost a fourth, and has hit the 30 goal mark while with the Panthers and is two years younger. Rodrigues has… Read more »


Not necessarily a fan of the Rodriguez signing but have to disagree with you on the team not doing a good job filling in needs, they did just that by signing the four defenseman they signed, They also improved their fourth line. Kulikov and Mikkolav are plenty physical, both are very strong on the puck and both play a heavy game, Neither are gonna lay the big, timely hits that Gudas did, But very few guys in the league can. For what Zito had to use,. The very little bit of cap space he did have. He did a very… Read more »


There’s no such thing as “plenty physical” and none of the four signed are physical. Cup winners have big, physical defensemen and the Panthers don’t.

Panthers had plenty of cap space and wasted the one expendable, tradeable asset (Duclair) on a subpar fourth liner.


Beg to differ 100%


Not to mention that Stenlund led the Jets in faceoffs last season (53%) and Lorentz took the 4th most faceoffs for the Sharks and had a respectable 47% win percentage.


Sub 50% in the faceoff is the problem this organization has had for years. Stenlund is a career sub 50%. There were more versatile, cheap options with more scoring potential available for the about the same price.


Well hope you enjoy the upcoming season as much as I plan on. Sounds like you are not a fan of many things the team did, we’ll have to agree to disagree, once Montour and Ekblad return the defense will be even stronger. they greatly improved the fourth line and as panther pointed out in his post, face off wins were tough to come by for anyone not named Barkov, well they went out and got a couple of guys that thrive in that area. Thats three points of weakness that were addressed without mortgaging the future.


Warm bodies that are career based off losers are not addressing a knee. This isn’t baseball where batting 300 is success. You need to win at least 50%. And one single season is not a career.

And the only thing that will save this defense is Ekblad and Montour returning.

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