This offseason will be interesting. The current Panthers are poised to make a playoff run next year. Hopefully health luck continues for the Core 4 which are Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and Vincent Trocheck. The Core 4 missed a combined 3 games this year all of them Barkov.
The Panthers don’t need to do much up front. Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evengii Dadonov are locks for next year. Nick Bjugstad, Jared McCann, Frank Vatrano and Colton Sceviour will stay with the team. Veterans Michael Haley and Derek Mackenzie face an uncertain fate. Vincent Trocheck seems ready to be the next captain of the Panthers so that eliminates Mackenzie. The team could use an enforcer like Haley but I’d pefer they use Jayce Hawryluk a young prospect who has skill and toughness. Henrik Borgstrom and Owen Tippett will be NHL regulars next year. Maxim Mamin and Denis Malgin will help. The forward core needs another top 6 forward. Jamie McGinn will likely be used as trade bait and I doubt Connor Brickley gets a lot of NHL time next year. The Panthers should add a free agent such as James van Riemsdyk to help them out. Persuming we don’t get any free agents and all of our draft prospects in 2018 don’t join the team as well as no trades here is what the lines will likely look like:
Evengii Dadonov-Aleksander Barkov-Nick Bjugstad
Jonathan Huberdeau-Vincent Trocheck-Frank Vatrano
Colton Sceviour-Henrik Borgstrom-Owen Tippett
Maxim Mamin-Denis Malgin-Jared McCann
The defense is more of an enigma. There aren’t any big free agents besides Carlson coming up and I don’t think we go after him. Ekblad, Yandle and Matheson are locks. Mark Pysyk will also be a defensive stalwart in the lineup too. With a lack of defensive prospects and a good 2018 defenseman pool I think we go after a defender in the draft. However I doubt he is ready for the season. Mackenzie Weegar will be a regular next year. Presuming we don’t make any moves, Alex Petrovic and Ian McCoshen will battle for the final spot although considering moves Petrovic’s days in Florida are numbered.
Keith Yandle-Aaron Ekblad
Michael Matheson-Mark Pysyk
Mackenzie Weegar-Alex Petrovic
With a lack of free agent goalies I think the Panthers should role out a 3 goalie tandem next year. Roberto Luongo is often injured and James Reimer is inconsistent. Harri Sateri was lights out in his brief NHL stint and was lights out down the stretch for Springfield. Although he is a UFA, I think we try and keep him. A 3 goalie tandem insures prospects Sam Montembeault and Even Cowley get plenty of time to develop. Sateri will likely usually be scratched but with injuries often happening to our guys in the crease, he will see some action.
These lines were hypothetical. My plan for the Panthers is that they have cap space. Let go of most of the RFAs in the minors except for Hultstrom and Greco. Go after a free agent to help the top 6 forwards. I doubt we get Tavares but James van Riemsdyk will be very helpful. Defense- draft some prospects. I doubt we pick high enough to get Dahlin or Boqvist I think Ty Smith would be a good pick. Smith has 73 points in 69 games this year. A lefty defenseman Smith could finally be the third lefty we need. A couple of other defenders I like are Jared McIssac and Bode Wilde. McIssac and Wilde are both projected to be mid-late 1st rounders while Smith is expected to be mid-early 1st rounder. McIssac has 47 points this year and is a tough guy with 84 PIMs. Bode Wilde is on the USNTDP and has committed to the University of Michigan. He has the size and strength and is a good offensive defenseman. Up front I have my eye on Joe Veleno, Barrett Hayton, Rasmus Kupari and Joel Farabee. Joe Veleno in my opinion is the next Barzal. A good prospect that didn’t do well in his draft year season and slipped from the Top 5 to mid-late draft. Veleno will likely be picked before we grab him but if he is still on the board he is my top choice. Barrett Hayton is described as a heart and soul guy that has 60 points this year. Great addition to the locker room. I like Rasmus Kupari because he is a Finn and I think Kekalainen is our best scout. We have had a lot of success with Finland and I think we should pick him. Joel Farabee is a great playmaker. I’d prefer a defender but these forwards are good. I’d also pick a goalie too to boost our pool there.