What Comes Next For the Florida Panthers?
The Panthers have already begun making changes to prepare for next season and hopeful playoff push to win Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Road Here
The Florida Panthers finished this year with their best season in franchise history, breaking many records. Finishing atop the NHL winning the President’s trophy and 122 points; 58 wins for the Panthers were the highest scoring team this year. They managed to beat the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs before facing their in-state rivals. The Tampa Bay Lightning proved to be too much for them getting a four-game sweep to advance to the Conference Finals. After a disappointing finish to their stellar record-breaking season the team is looking to move forward. The changes have already started to snowball.
After getting out-coached in the playoffs by Jon Cooper, the Panthers have decided to part ways with interim coach Andrew Brunette. Electing to go with former Winnipeg Jets head coach, they hired Paul Maurice. At least Maurice will have something come next playoffs that the previous head coach didn’t, job security. Brunette filled in for Joel Quennville and despite doing a fine job was not up to the task come playoffs. Brunette never went away from Sergei Bobrovsky. Despite having young phenom Spencer Knight as a backup, Brunette never attempted to change goalies.
As an interim head coach it is much more difficult to switch from a $10 million goalie for a second year guy. Maurice as the new head coach will not have to worry about job security. Maurice managed to lead the Jets to their first playoff appearance since returning to Winnipeg and a Western Conference Finals appearance years later.
Despite this change behind the bench the question now becomes who will fill out this roster. Having only $3 million in cap space to work with, the Panthers have many players they would like to re-sign. After acquiring big name star Claude Giroux at the deadline, he is one of the many free agents that needs to be addressed. His market value is far more than the Panthers can afford right now and unless he takes an incredibly team-friendly deal will be in a new uniform on opening night. With this limited room the front office should focus on players who have helped this team be successful. Defensemen Ben Chiarot, and Petteri Lindbohm will be big adds if they can get them for the right price. On the offensive side, the Panthers need to look at bringing back Mason Marchment, and Noel Acciari.
Without a first or second round pick in the draft the Panthers need to get lucky on their picks. That or attempt to package their picks to trade for players. With so many unknowns on how players in the draft will develop the Panthers will likely look to hit on multiple forwards and defensemen. Seeing as they already have a franchise goalie waiting in the wings. The Panthers are a very talented team that is close to taking the next step and will be back in the playoffs next season.