There is no doubt this upcoming season is a big one for Florida Panthers defenseman Gus Forsling.
From the start of the season, Forsling is going to be counted on to carry a little more of the load on the Florida backend what with Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour out with injuries.
He is also going into the final season of the three-year contract extension he signed in 2021 making him a free agent for the first time.
Forsling has a lot riding on this season, no doubt about it.
Ready for it?
“Absolutely,’’ Forsling said on Monday afternoon at the team’s golf outing in Weston. “This is the last year of my deal and I want to prove myself, want to stay here. It is going to be a lot of icetime at the beginning, for sure. I feel ready for it.”
Forsling has already stepped into a top pairing role with the Panthers in the past, filling in for Ekblad when he sustained a major knee injury during the 2021 season.
That was a tremendous opportunity for Forsling who surprised some as to how quickly he acclimated himself to the Panthers after being claimed off waivers from Carolina during training camp that year and saw his game take off.
Forsling has been one of the most consistent defensemen the Panthers have had over these past three seasons and now it appears he is going to be stepping into an even bigger role.
Last year, it was Montour who broke out when he took on a lot of Ekblad’s minutes and responsibilities. With both out, a lot of that is going to fall on Forsling.
That means more minutes, more high-pressure situations — and perhaps running the team’s power play.
Although he says he has not talked to the Panthers during the offseason about their power play plans, he can run it.
“I got a good summer in and I am ready to play a lot,’’ Forsling said. “I feel really good.”
As for his future, Forsling is not the only high-profile Florida player who could sign an extension but has not yet.
Montour, Forsling and Sam Reinhart are all in the final year of their current deals with unrestricted free agency pending for all three.
Forsling says there has not been much talk about a new contract.
“I feel like there is a lot of time left to go,’’ Forsling said. “I don’t think there is any sort of a rush. They know what I want and I want to stay. I am comfortable with it.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
- Thursday-Sunday: Training Camp, Coral Springs IceDen
- Monday: Preseason Doubleheader v. Nashville @ Sunrise; 2 and 6 p.m.
- Oct. 7: Preseason ends; v. Tampa Bay Lightning @ Sunrise
- Oct. 12: Start of 2023-24 Regular Season at Minnesota Wild (Bally Sports Florida)
- Oct. 19: 2023-24 Home Opener vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (BSF)