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Early Peek at How the Florida Panthers Could Look on Opening Night

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Taking a look at how the Florida Panthers could lineup from newcomers to mainstays such as, from top right, Evan Rodrigues, Dmitry Kulikov, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Anton Lundell and Sasha Barkov. // Photos by AP, Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

It has not even been a month since the Florida Panthers saw their season come to a close but yet many changes have already been made to the team and who will be on it for the 2023-24 season.

With injuries to a number of key players — Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour and Sam Bennett among them — the Panthers will look different when training camp opens in September.

But how different?

The core of the Panthers will return with a number of key players although the blueline will be retooled.

Florida moved on from Eric and Marc Staal, Colin White and Givani Smith.

Radko Gudas left to sign with Anaheim, Anthony Duclair was traded to to San Jose and Alex Lyon left for the Red Wings.

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Florida did, however, did add a number of players.

Let’s take a look at what the Panthers’ opening night lineup could look like.

With some salary cap breathing room — Florida still has about $400,000 under the salary cap with at least one of its two injured defensemen likely starting on long-term injured reserve allowing the Panthers to have 23 players on the roster.

The Panthers open their new season on Oct. 12 against the host Minnesota Wild.

FORWARDS

Florida has a couple of newcomers to give themselves some depth with Kevin Stenlund expected to center the fourth line with Steven Lorentz playing on the right side.

The Panthers also signed Grigori Denisenko to a two-year, one-way deal so he may have a spot in the top-9 if Bennett is unable to start the season.

In this scenario, Anton Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen would center the second and third lines; since we do not know Bennett’s status right now, we’ll keep him in the opening night lineup.

Evan Rodrigues, signed to a four-year deal after the Duclair trade, is capable of playing throughout the lineup but we’re going to give him a shot to play with Sasha Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe right away.

Carter Verhaeghe — Sasha Barkov — Evan Rodrigues

Eetu Luostarinen — Sam Bennett — Matthew Tkachuk

Nick Cousins — Anton Lundell — Sam Reinhart

Ryan Lomberg — Kevin Stenlund — Steven Lorentz

Extras: Grigori Denisenko, Aleksi Heponiemi

In the Mix: Rasmus Asplund, Mackie Samoskevich, Zac Dalpe, Alexander True

DEFENSEMEN

Both Ekblad and Montour will miss the start of the season with at least one of them likely to begin on LTIR for the cap relief.

Still, with four defensemen signed — and Lucas Carlsson brought back — on July 1, the Panthers now have plenty of depth to work with.

Florida should be fine defensively.

Now, who goes where?

We expect coach Paul Maurice to mix-and-match throughout the preseason to try and find some chemistry among his defensemen but here is what we’ve got:

Gus Forsling — Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Dmitry Kulikov — Mike Reilly

Josh Mahura — Niko Mikkola

Extra: Lucas Carlsson

In the Mix: Matt Kiersted, Uvis Balinskis

Injured: Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour

GOALIES

This is actually a pretty interesting situation for the Panthers as there is no doubt who comes into the season as the starter, but who is the backup?

Florida signed Spencer Knight to a three-year extension which pays $4.5 million but he stepped away from the team in February.

If he comes back in a good frame of mind and looks good — starting in development camp this week — one has to think Knight has the advantage over newly-signed Anthony Stolarz.

But we’ll see.

Starter: Sergei Bobrovsky

Backup: Spencer Knight

No. 3: Anthony Stolarz

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

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