Connect with us

Florida Panthers

Kyle Okposo Makes Tough Decision, Ready to Help Florida Panthers



Okposo panthers
Kyle Okposo was acquired by the Florida Panthers on Friday at the NHL Trade Deadline and is ready to chase the Stanley Cup in a new place. // Graphic by @GeorgeRichards

SUNRISE — After eight years with the Buffalo Sabres, it was a hard conversation for Kyle Okposo when he and GM Kevyn Adams agreed it was time for him to move on to a contender. But Okposo was set on the Florida Panthers being that team.

Okposo was the heart and soul of that Sabres team, serving as captain for the past two seasons and helping a Buffalo team that had grown used to losing try to build a winning culture.

With Buffalo on track to miss the postseason for the 13th year in a row, both parties decided it was time for a change.

“I left this morning, pretty early,” Okposo said right after joining the Panthers during Saturday’s 5-1 win against the Calgary Flames.

“But it’s not easy.

“My wife and I had a lot of conversations about leaving and what that’s going to do, and you never really think it’s real until it happens. And when it does, it’s a bit of a shock. It’s a bit of a scramble, and then all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘OK, I got eight hours to spend with my kids.’ And then, I don’t really know when I’m going to see them next. It could be three weeks or whatever.”

No One Covers the Florida Panthers Like FHN

No. One.

Subscribe Today

It is going to be a challenging few months for Okposo.

He will have to leave his family and the life he built in western New York for a real shot at his first taste of playoff hockey since the year he and the New York Islanders knocked the Panthers out of the playoffs in 2016.

But he and his family knew it was an opportunity he could not pass on.

“My older two (kids) took it pretty hard, which is difficult,” Okposo said. “They understand the situation a little bit more and know that daddy will be gone for a little bit.

Get FHN+ today!

“But I know that, in my heart, I would have regretted not taking a shot at it and not trying to contribute to something special, and they understand that, and they’re fully supportive of me, and they’re going to be down here as much as they can to support me in this run.”

Those 2016 Islanders ended with a 5-game series loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the following round.

And, it was a long time ago.

Sasha Barkov and Aaron Ekblad are the only players on the Florida roster who watched Okposo pick up the primary assist on John Tavares’ series-winning goal in the second overtime of Game 6.

“It’s been too long since I played in the playoffs,” Okposo said. “I was talking to my son the other day, and we were talking about the playoffs, and I just said it was the purest form of hockey, and I get butterflies thinking about it now.

“I haven’t had a taste of it in eight years, but I can still remember the feeling of skating out on the ice for a playoff game, and there’s nothing like it as an athlete.”

Okposo knew the Panthers would give him his best shot at winning a Stanley Cup.

“We had a conversation about it, and it was my preferred spot,” Okposo said. “The way that they play, I know what they’re hungry with everything that happened last year, that run that they had and how close they became, or how close they came to winning.

”You can just see it in the way that they play, and playing against them, it’s not fun. You know what you’re getting every night and it’s going to be a hard game and you’re going to have to have a few ice baths after and I look forward to joining the group.

“They have all the pieces in place to make a run here. At the end of the day, that’s what i want to do, and that’s what drew me here.”

General manager Bill Zito and the Panthers knew what Okposo brought on and off the ice to help contribute to a Stanley Cup run when they traded for him.

The 6-foot, 216-pound forward is not afraid to play Florida’s rough-and-tumble style of hockey and has been known to create scoring chances in tight areas throughout his career.

In his heyday, he was a consistent goal scorer for the Islanders, peaking at 27 goals and 69 points in 71 games in 2013-14.

Even now, while playing fourth-line minutes in Buffalo, Okposo has 12 goals and 22 points in 61 games this season.

“It was important for us to have a guy that can come in and play up a line if he has to,” coach Paul Maurice said. “He has in his career. There’s a pressure to it and there’s a confidence to it when you have to play in the National Hockey League at a high level, so he’s played there before.”

But the leadership and attitude he brings off the ice trumps all.

“When I walked down the hall and I told [assistant equipment manager] Train Anderson, he jumped up and down and said, ‘That’s the greatest guy I’ve ever met in hockey,’” Zito said. “So when you have that type of impact across that many levels of the game, and the texts that I got from people saying ‘you don’t understand what a great this is.’ That’s it, right?

“You want to be in a comfortable situation. You want to be around good people. You want to be around people who care, and I think he brings that.”

Okposo is a player who can bring a room together, and he treats everyone — whether it’s the leading scorer or a minor-leaguer — like gold.

That easily translates to the culture the Panthers are trying to build.

But it is a balancing act for Okposo, too.

“It’s obviously very different from my time in Buffalo this year, being the captain of the team and trying to lead a young group, and now I’m going to a team where I’m going to just start by just being a good guy,” Okposo said. “Just being a guy in the room and trying to do whatever I can to help the team and work hard and be a spoke in the wheel.

”I’m not trying to be a disrupter, but why would you? You’re going to the best team in the league right now, so I just want to put my head down and work hard and fit in and do whatever I can to help the team.”



  • When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: AmericanAirlines Center, Dallas
  • 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, NHL app
  • Last Season: Dallas won 2-0
  • This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Stars 4 (Dec. 6). At Dallas: Tuesday.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 25-21-2, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday @ Carolina, 7 p.m.

Get FHN in your inbox!

Be the first to know. Enter your email to get the latest from Florida Hockey Now delivered straight to your inbox.