Carter Verhaeghe Has Exceeded All Expectations with Florida Panthers
- Subscribe to FHN+
On the first day of free agency in 2020, the Florida Panthers signed Carter Verhaeghe to a two-year deal with Bill Zito saying the team thought he was a player who they thought had “a lot of upside.”
Yeah he did.
The Panthers have not regretted signing Verhaeghe for one minute as he has evolved from fighting for time on a stacked Tampa Bay Lightning team to one the top scorers on the team a few hours down the road.
On Tuesday night, Verhaeghe scored two goals in Florida’s 7-6 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins setting a couple of personal marks in the process.
Not only has Verhaeghe recorded at least a point in each of his past six games for the first time, but he now has a career-high 25 goals through 49 games which is tied with Matthew Tkachuk for the team lead.
In 78 games last season, Verhaeghe scored 24 goals.
His previous high was the 18 he scored during the Covid-shortened 2021 campaign — his first with the Panthers.
Talk about trending up.
The Best Coverage of the Florida Panthers
Get a Subscription to Florida Hockey Now!
“Right when I got here, I got a huge opportunity to play different minutes than I played in Tampa,” Verhaeghe said last spring.
“I think my minutes almost doubled and I was a more reliable part of the team. It was different, but it grew my confidence and helped me develop into a different player.”
Verhaeghe’s road to the Panthers came not long after the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in the 2020 Edmonton bubble.
The cap-strapped Lightning had to make some tough decisions and one of them was not offering Verhaeghe a qualifying offer.
Verhaeghe, who was originally drafted by the Maple Leafs in 2013, played in the Islanders system before spending two seasons with Tampa Bay’s AHL team in Syracuse.
He made his NHL debut with the Lightning during the 2019-20 season, scoring nine goals with 13 points in 52 games.
Verhaeghe only played in eight postseason games with the Lightning — three of which were in the Final against Dallas — getting two assists.
‘’Carter’s come a long way,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said during the 2020 Eastern Conference finals. “I watched him in the Calder Cup playoffs last year, and if there was a guy that stood out to me, it was him. He’s not afraid to go into dirty areas, and he’s got sneaky good skill.’’
While the Lightning liked him, it had other players it needed to sign and made offers to the likes of Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, and Ross Colton.
Verhaeghe had arbitration rights and the Lightning could not take that chance with its cap situation.
Two days after he was not qualified, the Panthers snapped him up — and, again, have not looked back since.
“Since the day he joined us, we loved him. We love him as a guy, we love him as a player,” Sasha Barkov said. “Everything he does is great and we really like to be around him. He comes to the rink and makes your day a lot better than it was going to be.
“I didn’t know the type of player he was when he got here, but ever since Day 1, he has impressed me. He keeps impressing me every day.”
Verhaeghe, now 27, got $1 million for each of his first two seasons with the Panthers and is in the first year of the three-year extension he signed with the Panthers in 2021.
While making $4.2 million with his current contract, he is certainly still considered quite the bargain as it is ranked No. 260 among NHL players per CapFriendly.com.
And, last season’s numbers do not count what he did in the playoffs.
Verhaeghe was a postseason hero for the Panthers in the opening round against the Capitals — setting a franchise record with six goals and 12 points in that six-game victory which was Florida’s first series win since 1996.
Included in that incredible run was two overtime winning goals (including the goal which won the Panthers their first playoff series in 26 years) and a five-point performance in the pivotal Game 5.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Verhaeghe said after the Washington series was done.
“It has been a bit of a whirlwind. When you’re growing up, you dream about scoring those big goals in the playoffs. It’s surreal.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
LOS ANGELES KINGS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Los Angeles won 2-0
- This season — Los Angeles leads 1-0: Kings 5, Panthers 4 (Nov. 5)
- All-time regular season series: Los Angeles leads 24-14-0, 3 ties
- Subscribe to FHN+