With NFL teams setting their final 53-man rosters today, why not take a look at our way-to-early thoughts on who makes the Opening Night roster for the Florida Panthers.
None of this, of course, is set in stone.
Not only do we have about six weeks before Bill Zito & Co. have to make their final decisions on who makes the flight to Minnesota for the opening trip, but we are not even sure which new players will be in camp — or claimed off waivers as Josh Mahura was last year.
The Panthers are expected to invite at least one veteran to camp on a professional tryout — Edmonton added Sam Gagner and Brandon Sutter on Monday — and that player will have a chance to make the team based off their performance in the preseason.
Another unknown is whether Florida will have enough salary cap space on Opening Night for additional players.
Last season, the Panthers opened with the minimum of 20 players and could only add extras when Aaron Ekblad landed on long-term injured reserve after getting hurt in the third game in Boston.
Ekblad and/or Brandon Montour could initially start the season on LTIR giving the Panthers plenty of breathing room — at least when the season starts.
Today, we will go with Florida starting the season with 23 players on the roster due to Ekblad and Montour being unavailable for the first few weeks of the campaign.
Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett also got hurt during the playoffs but we will assume they will be ready to go for the opener.
The Locks: Sasha Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Reinhart, Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Bennett, Evan Rodrigues, Eetu Luostarinen, Anton Lundell, Ryan Lomberg, Nick Cousins, Kevin Stenlund, Steven Lorentz