Paul Maurice said before the Florida Panthers season started that his team would have to get used to playing shorthanded.
Do not think he meant this, however.
On Saturday, the Panthers started their game in Seattle down a man what with Anton Lundell out of the lineup after getting hurt Thursday in Vancouver.
Then Radko Gudas was hurt on his second shift of the night and crawled off the ice, being helped to the room.
In the second, Patric Hornqvist was escorted off the ice by medical trainer Dave DiNapoli and he also did not return — leaving the Panthers with just 10 forwards and five defensemen for the remainder of their hard-fought 5-1 victory.
After the game, Maurice did not have any kind of an update on either player, simply saying they needed to “see a doctor.”
He did add that “both could be fine,” but again said that they need to be looked at.
If one or both players cannot play on Tuesday night in Winnipeg due to their injuries, the Panthers could be shorthanded again.
And, yes, that may mean being two players short against the Jets.
Florida plans to fly out of Seattle on Sunday morning for a day off in Wyoming with a practice scheduled for Monday. The team would then fly to Winnipeg.
The Panthers have been without star center Sasha Barkov for the past week due to a lingering illness but Maurice said Barkov has started skating again.
It is possible, although no one from the Panthers would confirm, Barkov could fly to Jackson Hole — either private or commercial — and join the team before traveling with them to Manitoba on Monday.
Regardless of whether Barkov makes the long flight to the Rockies, the Panthers may still be forced to play shorthanded.
Here’s why: The NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for teams up against the salary cap ceiling to recall players from the minors on an emergency basis due to injury.
The catch is, the player being replaced has to miss a complete game.
Per PuckPedia.com, the Panthers have just under $90,000 in cap space which does not allow for a normal roster move.
Since Lundell did not start the game Saturday, Florida can call up one player on an emergency basis in case Lundell can not play Tuesday.
This player could only replace Lundell in the lineup.
If Lundell plays — which Maurice said is possible — the recalled player would technically be returned.
Now to Gudas and Hornqvist.
Because they played on Saturday night before being hurt, Gudas and/or Hornqvist would have to miss Tuesday night before the Panthers could call up a replacement.
The Panthers hope both players are good to go on Tuesday, obviously.
But it is possible at least one will not be able to play. And they could not be replaced — again, on an emergency basis — until Thursday against Detroit at the earliest.
Now, if Florida determined one of the injuries is pretty severe, they could place one of these players on the restrictive long-term injured reserve. That means said player would have to miss 10 games and 24 days of action.
That takes them out until January.
The upside to that is, if you think a player is going to miss 5-7 games anyway, you can place them on LTIR and get a large chunk of their salary taken off the cap in order to bring up multiple players.
As an example, if Gudas was ruled out and the Panthers needed to put him on LTIR on Sunday or Monday, they would lose most of his $2.5 million cap hit allowing them to call up up to two players from Charlotte.
That would not only give the team enough players for Tuesday (whether Hornqvist plays or not) but also provide some roster flexibility at least for the next few weeks.
When Aaron Ekblad sustained a groin pull in the third game of the season, Florida immediately placed him on LTIR freeing up his cap space to bring up a couple of players — as well as sign Eric Staal to a contract.
The move is only temporary, however, as the Panthers have been in salary cap jail since Ekblad was reactivated last month.
Not only did they have to send players back to Charlotte, but Rudolfs Balcers was lost on waivers to Tampa Bay.
If the team thinks Gudas and/or Hornqvist will only miss a game or two, they would not want to place them on LTIR and lose either for a month.
The Panthers would just have to play short in Winnipeg — be it one or two players.
Aleksi Heponiemi, who scored Saturday night, is currently up from Charlotte on the emergency recall in place of Barkov.
He has to be returned to the Checkers upon Barkov’s return, unless Florida wanted to keep him as Lundell’s emergency plan.
Players coming up on the emergency basis have to make $1 million or less, which the Panthers do not have any concerns with.
The players they would consider to come up (Zac Dalpe, Grigori Denisenko, Justin Sourdif, Michael Del Zotto among them) all have contracts under that number.
UPDATE: Florida called up veteran forward Chris Tierney (561 NHL games) on Sunday afternoon.
Got all that?
Test on Monday.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT WINNIPEG JETS
- When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
- Where: Canada Life Center; Winnipeg, Manitoba
- TV: 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: Florida won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets lead 50-31-8, 5 ties