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What’s Next for the Florida Panthers? Free Agency Starts July 1



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Florida Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas latches on to Boston forward Tyler Bertuzzi during Game 2 of the playoffs on April 19. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Florida Panthers had a season that went about two months longer than many thought but after losing in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, the offseason is now.

According to, Florida roughly has $11.3 million of cap space heading into the 2023-24 season.

But, before you start writing checks left and right, the Panthers do have some holes to fill.

Start on defense.

Due to Florida’s cap problems this (now) past season, Florida played with the same six defensemen for much of the year.

With Patric Hornqvist on LTIR, Florida was able to claim Riley Fitzgerald off waivers and keep him on the roster for the second half of the season.

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Now with some cap space, the Panthers are going to be able to make some moves — and that’s before GM Bill Zito is able to pull off a trade or two that does not include high-level draft picks.

Florida, again, does not have a first-round pick until 2026 and does not have a second-round pick in 2024.

Starting with pending free agents, Florida is thought to have interest in bringing back Radko Gudas who will likely be getting a raise on the $2.5 million he made the past three seasons with the Panthers.

Either Gudas gets it a new deal here or somewhere else.

Right now, Florida only has four defensemen — Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour, Gus Forsling and Josh Mahura — under contract.

Florida also has to make a decision on free agents Eric and Marc Staal who gave the team good value for the $750,000 each made.

Hornqvist is also a free agent, with his $5.3 million staying off the cap.

While Hornqvist sounds like he is done playing, he has not officially said he will not try playing next season.

If he wanted to come back with the Panthers, it would likely be on a contract more in line with what the Staal brothers made.

Florida also has pending free agents in defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Fitzgerald; goalie Alex Lyon is also free to sign anywhere else and is in line for his first one-way deal.

With the Panthers having both Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight under contract — Knight’s new three-year deal at $4.5 million annually kicking in — it is not known whether Florida can be the team to sign Lyon.

With most of Florida’s forwards coming back — Colin White and Givani Smith are restricted free agents and may or may not return — the Panthers’ biggest need are on the blue line.

Based on Florida’s lack of forward depth rearing its head during the Cup Final, however, expect Zito to address that as well.

The biggest name defenseman available on the market is Dmitry Orlov, who was looking for a big contract extension with Washington before being traded to Boston. He had a strong finish to his season but will be highly sought after.

Broward County’s Shayne Gostisbehere is also on the market and would definitely be a more affordable option.

When it comes to forwards — Florida would be looking to improve its bottom-6 depth with players who could slide up in a pinch — Tyler Bertuzzi jumps out as a player who would fit right in with the Panthers’ style of play.

The Panthers will definitely be looking at players not offered qualifying deals (see Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair) in the coming days.


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