Welcome to another edition of the FHN Mailbag where, as always, you fans of the Florida Panthers brought plenty of quality questions to the table.
This is our October mailbag, but in these strange times, it is more like a July mailbag.
Hard to believe it is Halloween and there is no hockey right now.
The Panthers, of course, were very busy on the opening day of free agency but have slowed their roll since.
There have been a couple of changes to the front office, there is a rumored new jersey coming and everyone wants to know what, exactly, is going on with MacKenzie Weegar.
And could Patrick Laine join forces with Sasha Barkov and officially crown the Florida Panthers as Finland’s favorite NHL team?
I try to answer all of your pressing questions with the hope that next month’s mailbag has more to do with an upcoming training camp and less to do with “when do you think the NHL will return?”
Now, without further ado, the FloridaHockeyNow.com October Mailbag!
Why are we considering moving Weegar? I believe a team needs to be made of complimentary players, and we have struggled to find a suitable partner for Ekblad since Campbell left. We finally have a guy that makes Ekblad a better player and now we wont give him a deal? Unless we are actually considering trading Ekblad it makes no sense not to give Weegar 4×4. He may not be a top line guy on his own, but with Ek it works and 4mil for a guy who makes your top pair work is a bargin IMO. — Flying Fluffy
They are working on a contract extension with MacKenzie Weegar and his agent and I would not be surprised to see a four-year deal worked out before he goes to arbitration on Nov. 7.
There is still time to get something done, no doubt. Weegar doesn’t want to play on another short-term deal and the Panthers probably would like to get something done to put this behind them.
As far as trades go, the Panthers are listening. Teams things they can pull Weegar out of here for nothing and that is not the case.
The bottom line is Weegar may not be an elite defenseman (can he be? Maybe.) but he is pretty darned good. Replacing what he brings will probably cost more than what it will take to simply keep him.
He says he wants to be here and I believe that. He also wants security and be paid what he is worth. The two sides are going to have to figure out some sort of middle ground.
They weren’t seriously considering moving Mackenzie Weegar, right? The trade rumors around the start of free agency confused me. Bill Zito seems sharp, and Weegar was probably the best dman on the team last season when healthy. He and Ek were the best pair on D by a mile. — @mrdoft
I think it simply comes down to teams calling Bill Zito and the Panthers listening. They know they’re going to have to pay Weegar if they want to keep him either with an extension before arbitration or after the arbiter makes his ruling. I still think something gets done before then. They have all of next week to get a deal done.
Assuming Weegar is moved, who has the best shot at the last spot on the blue line between Keeper/Priskie/Stillman? — @shtickyk
Based on what happened at summer training camp, it looked like the pecking order was Stillman, Keeper and Priskie. So, if Weegar was gone and Florida did not bring in another defenseman, I could see Stillman in the top six with Priskie and Keeper fighting for the seventh spot.
Based on the summer, Keeper had the edge but Priskie had been playing through an injury and I do not think we saw him at his best. If Keeper continues to improve, however, he may just force their hand and jump into the top six.
AHL targeting Feb. 5th for return. NHL to follow suit? Or is Jan. 1st still on the table? — Matt Fagan
The AHL and NHL are in constant conversation and there already questions whether the NHL will really start on Jan. 1. What the AHL decision says to me is perhaps the NHL could start a few weeks into January. The AHL probably wants to follow the NHL but not be all that far behind.
For fun, lets say training camps start Jan 1., games on the 20th. That gives NHL teams time to evaluate all the players in camp, make their cuts and release players to AHL which would allow for a few weeks of AHL camp.
Right now, everything is so fluid, I don’t know what’s going to happen although I don’t think if the NHL was going to start Jan. 1 that the AHL would wait over a month to start their season.
Unless, of course, they just think by February some of the attendance restrictions will relax a bit.
The AHL absolutely has to be able to allow fans into their building. They do not have the TV deal nor the corporate sponsors the NHL do. They live and die by fans in the building.
Who is the 2nd line center going to be? Who is Ekblad’s partner going to be? — @VKS82
I think you have to pencil in Alexander Wennberg at 2C. As long as Weegar is still here, he and Ekblad should stay together.
How much more active do you expect the Panthers to be during this free agency? — @SerBronn227
After signing five players on the opening day of the market being open, they haven’t done a whole lot.
I think they are probably close to done — although I would expect at least one or two more signings. There is still a lot of affordable talent out there and I wouldn’t be shocked if they figure out some way to bring Mike Hoffman back. That will take some doing.
Under previous management were there any damaged relationships with some prospects and players that have since gone overseas? Why will we never bring back players like Lammikko and Mamin. Mamin has shown tremendous improvement yet we refuse to bring them back. — @ThePyschoBacon
The case of Mamin is definitely interesting. He has been signing KHL contracts the past few years so it seems like this is more of his decision than that of the Panthers.
Florida still owns his NHL rights so if he decides to come back, he would come back to Florida. I think he was close when he first left for the KHL and he has only gotten better. He could be a help to this team down the road if he so chooses.
Same goes for Lammikko. He was a decent fourth-line guy here and was playing OK in Springfield when he left. He has also matured and become a better player. We could see one or both of these guys here down the road.
Will Anton Lundell make the 2021 roster? Chances that Zito makes pre-emptive offer for an RFA, maybe Sergachev?? Thanks… was hoping you’d do another one of these!! — @MarkWeber1
Thanks Mark. It looks like Lundell (Florida’s top draft pick earlier this month) will stay in Finland for the remainder of this season. But yeah, I think he is here in 2021 and will fight for the second center position regardless of whether Wennberg is here or not.
As far as Zito making an offer sheet, he said he would be for it only if it makes sense for the Panthers. I would think that includes knowing the team (Tampa in your case) definitely would not match it.
George do you see Zito making any changes to the minor league coaching staff? Concerned about the lack of development of players in the system. — @rob5468
As of right now, Geordie Kinnear is the coach of the AHL team and he will be going back to Charlotte where he was an assistant while working for the Hurricanes before being hired by the Panthers to coach Springfield.
There are reports out there that Florida is going to hire Paul Krepelka away from Carolina to be the assistant GM and be in charge of the Charlotte Checkers. So, he may want to bring in his own people. I would think that things will stay the same at least for this coming season.
Can the Panthers eat $$ and move Yandle? —@PKtrotters1
I do not think that is even on the table. First, Keith would have to agree to any deal. As I have stated for a long time, he’s not going to do that. So, it appears any trade proposal would be DOA.
Let’s say the Panthers wanted to move Yandle and he was good with it. OK, where in the NHL does he fit? With that salary?
Teams are not spending money right now, they’re just not. Even in the best of times he would be hard to move — if the Panthers even wanted to — and it would be exceptionally tough in this environment.
Yandle is good at what he does. He is a good puck mover, is a point producer and a great teammate. He brings plenty of positives and does exactly what he was signed to do.
Any chance of a Ekblad for Laine deal? — @kbon37
This is a tough one. Personally, as much as I like Patrik Laine, I like having a high-end defenseman like Ekblad better. Laine will also have to be resigned after this coming season and I guess one would figure you could give Ekblad’s money to him.
But for that price, especially with Florida having to resign Barkov and Huberdeau in the coming years, I would just rather keep Ekblad. But that’s me.
Are we serious about Laine? — @tgraham1231
I think anytime word gets out that a player of his caliber is potentially available, you have to see what it will take to get him. It will not come cheap, either in what you’ll have to send to Winnipeg nor what you’ll have to pay him moving forward.
WHAT DO WE HAVE TO DO TO BRING HOFF BACK?? — @ggood19
PAY THE MAN THAT MONEY!!
Is it possible for players like Barkov and Huberdeau to change their pass-first mindset this far into their professional careers? I remember seeing players like Spezza/Oates/Thornton find their scoring touch for a season here & there. No Hoff/Dads would seem to require it. — @EdPurchaseIV
Both players, in my opinion, have gotten better in that regard over the years. It is not like it hasn’t been mentioned countless times. But, you have to remember, these two players see the ice so well, they’re always looking a few steps ahead.
Florida is now adding a player in Wennberg who also has a pass-first mentality and frustrated fans in Columbus for passing up way too many shots.
The bottom line is, whomever gets to play with Barkov and Huberdeau definitely benefit from their playmaking ability. And when they shoot, good things usually happen. They know that.
With the stars third jersey, can we get word from management on the panthers getting a third? And how was borgstroms last season, what are the chances he makes the team and what’s holding him back/pushing him forward? — @ggood19
There still is no word on a third jersey coming down the pike although, as I have said here before, one is in the works. When it will be released remains to be seen.
As far as Borgstrom goes, he still hasn’t played in Finland after getting hurt at the end of last year’s AHL season. I am not sure he will be ready to play when the Panthers come back. He remains in their plans, however, and should be in the mix moving forward.
Thoughts on what the reverse retro jersey will look like when will it be revealed? — @Dragons_Quest
I haven’t heard anything about Florida’s plans for the retro/inverted sweater, but I have some thoughts.
I think you definitely have to bring back the original look, the stripes and all. Bring back the leaping panther. And, debut the yellow jersey. Florida has worn red, white and blue over the years but never yellow. It’s time.
Is Q really going to go against type and give legitimate playing time to rookies like Tippett and Denisenko? — @mrdoft
We shall see. People have been raving over how Denisenko looks in workouts but he has a lot of adjustments to make.
This will be his first season playing on a smaller ice surface and, well, he is making the jump to the NHL.
I stand by my previous story in that if Denisenko makes the Panthers (and I don’t think you bring him over here to stash him in Charlotte), he needs to get legit top-six minutes. He is too skilled to be in a bottom-six role and playing there will not help anyone.
As far as Tippett goes, I think he had a terrific season in the AHL last year, was on the track to joining to the Panthers before he got hurt.
What is the status of the Panther Press Box podcast? Episode 8 was great. What is Weegar’s bid/ ask price and term? What do you think he gets in arbitration or will he be traded? — @hlamp
Thanks for the note Harry. Going to have a new podcast episode up next week. Was in Ohio the past few weeks and wasn’t able to do one. But we will have one coming up to talk about the draft and free agency.
As far as Weegar goes, I do not know what his ask is, but they are a bit off. if they were close, a deal would have been done by now. That said, I do think a deal gets done before he goes to arbitration next week.
Feels like the team downgraded on offense this off-season instead of improved. Do you agree? — @RedSteeg32
It is hard to lose the scoring Florida lost and say they improved offensively. When guys like Dadonov and Hoffman walk out the door, that’s a lot of scoring. I think we’re going to see an improved defensive team and the track meet games we have become accustomed to over the past few years will become a little rarer.
On a scale of 1-10 how interested are you in what’s being said at the exact moment this photo was taken? — @HackswithHaggs
Well, it was Jagr talking so I would have to say it is at least a 7. You always had to listen to what he was saying because he would slip in some real juicy nuggets. He was the best.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, was Trocheck still tripped? — @DavidDwork
Trocheck says he was not tripped, but it sure looked like he was.
Those last two questions regarding hot dogs and hoagies make want to ask “what are the best regional sandwiches you’ve had?” — @VKS82
OK, so this question came in too late to make the September mailbag, but I will allow it since I like sandwiches so much.
I found this little sandwich place in Canada that I really like. It’s called Subway. I assume it is named that because it is close to mass transportation.
If not Subway, then give me a BBQ brisket sandwich in Texas, a Shawarma in Ottawa, perhaps even a Lobster Roll in Boston.
The pot roast sandwich at the Tip-Top in downtown Columbus is also a can’t-miss. When in Philly, I definitely chow down on a cheesesteak (or four) and you have to have an Italian beef in Chicago.
Man, I miss traveling.
Hockey, please come back!