Our Florida Panthers 2020-21 Preview is part of a one-a-day series covering the entire NHL. Click here for the rest of the teams in the leadup to another action-packed NHL season!
The 2019-2020 Panthers finished the season fourth in the Atlantic Division with a 35-26-8 record. They were 6th in the league for total goals for, but also had the 5th highest total goals against in the league. They scored a lot, and gave up a lot of goals too. It’s hard to win games when no lead is safe.
Offensively the team did quite well, with Jonathan Huberdeau, Barkov, Hoffman and Dadonov all having excellent seasons. The real issue was not up front.
To address the really sub par goaltending of the 2018-2019 season, General Manager Dale Tallon gave Sergei Bobrovsky a ridiculous 7 year $10 million contract with a no movement clause. In last years’ season preview, I said “All Bobrovsky needs to be in Florida is good, but it’s likely he’ll be great.” Talk about a take that aged like milk. Bobrovsky, determined to prove me wrong, had a horrendous season. In 50 games played, he posted a .900 save percentage and a 3.23 GAA. His goals saved above average was -14.91. Take that you losers in Columbus. Bobrovsky has moved on to a winning franchise now! That’s a career low GAA and the second lowest save percentage of his career, with the lowest being 2011-2012 in Philly with .899 save percentage in 29 games. It’s okay though, surely after his playoff performance last year he had similar numbers in the 2020 playoffs right? How about a .901 save percentage and a 3.07 GAA in 4 games. Look at this goal he let in against the Islanders.
The Montreal Canadians got some flak when they signed Jake Allen and spend a collective $14.8 million on goalies between him and Price. Well last season the Panthers spent $12.7 million on four goalies with Bobrovsky making $10 million of that and two others, Chris Driedger and Sam Montembeault each making less than $1 million. Wait that doesn’t add up, who’s the other goalie? It’s Roberto Luongo’s cap recapture penalty of $1 million per season until 2021-2022.
If Montreal gets flak for bringing in a competent backup for one of the best goalies in the league, you can imagine what kind of grief the Panthers are worthy of. The major difference is Price is a reliable goaltender and still at the top of the league. Bobrovksy was counted on to be competent and simply wasn’t, making his contract easily the worst on the team, and with his no movement clause, will likely hamstring this team for many years to come.
At the trade deadline Dale Tallon acquired Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for long time Panther Vincent Trocheck, who was definitely having an off year as the second line centre.
The Florida Panthers ended the Dale Tallon era after they got eliminated in the Qualifying Round of the 2020 NHL Playoffs in four games by the New York Islanders. Tallon went big and it didn’t pan out. A change was needed. The team had a lenghty period of interviewing and ended up selecting Bill Zito, who had previously been the GM for Columbus’ AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters. Zito had his work cut out for him as there were a lot of UFA and RFA contracts coming up.
Huberdeau had 23 goals 55 assists 78 points
Markus Nutivaara for Cliff Pu
Hornqvist for Matheson and Sceviour
Mackenzie Weegar re-signed
- Patric Hornqvist
- Markus Nutivaara
- Vinnie Hinostroza
- Alexander Wennberg
- Radko Gudas
- Carter Verhaeghe
- Evgenii Dadonov
- Colton Sceviour
- Mike Matheson
- Lucas Wallmark
- Mark Pysyk
- Mike Hoffman
- Erik Haula
- Brian Boyle
- Aleksi Saarela
- Sam Montembeault
Florida Panthers Roster Overview
The loss of Dadonov is perhaps the greatest loss to this team. Dadonov, Barkov and Huberdeau is the only real consistent line this team had, and it amounted for a large percentage of the offense. This top line combination had 588 minutes of 5on5 time together over the season. The next closest line, Connolly, Acciari and Trocheck (who left at the deadline) had only 185 minutes 5on5.
If that wasn’t enough, another top six forward, Mike Hoffman looks to be leaving as well. He is a UFA and it’s very likely he will be signing elsewhere. Hoffman leaving is a huge detriment to the second line, which already lost Vincent Trocheck last season at the deadline. Erik Haula came in for Trochek and got 2 assists in 7 games, and he too remains a UFA. Lucas Wallmark who also came over in that trade already moved on somewhere else. So nothing remains from that trade if Haula signs elsewhere too.
Panthers fans and head coach Joel Quenneville are probably hoping that some of the blue chip prospects the team have are ready to take on that role of top six forwards. Either Owen Tippet, Aleksi Heponiemi or Henrik Borgstrom are the prime candidates to leap forward and carve out a full time role on the team. With Barkov and Huberdeau losing their consistent linemate of the past several seasons, there is a real opportunity here for young players. Another candidate for that position or on line two is Alexander Wennberg who signed with the team this offseason. Wennberg was bought out by the Columbus Blue Jackets after having another down year with 22 points in 57 games. The 26 year old Swede looks to be trending down after earning 59 points in the 2016-2017 season and seeing his point totals dwindle each season. He actually did fairly well in playoffs though, getting 5 points in 10 games with CBJ. My co-host Sean and I agreed he was the likeliest of all buyouts this off season to bounce back and have a good year with his new team. Perhaps the Panthers are hoping its another case of an offensively gifted player struggling in Columbus and poised to breakout like William Karlsson did when he went to Vegas. Either way it’s a gamble for Florida, but he only signed for 1 year, so if it doesn’t work out, no big deal.
The team also acquired Patric Hornqvist from the Pittsburgh Penguins. He will bring some much needed playoff experience and a bit of a winning culture to the team, having won two cups with the Pens. He’s a notorious hard worker and a big net front presence, so I could see him edging his way into the top six and playing his role.
The team also added Carter Verhaeghe and Vinnie Hinostroza to complement the bottom six of Noel Acciari, Frank Vatrano, and Brett Connolly.
With the high end talent of Huberdeau and Barkov I think this team will continue to score, but with Dadonov and potentially Hoffman too leaving, they will be counting on acquisitions and rookies to step up.
When the team brought in Hornqvist, they sent out Mike Matheson. This was the best move of the off season for the team in my mind. Matheson was signed by Tallon to another terrible contract and had absolutely horrendous advanced stats. In playoffs against the Islanders he was either in the box or on the ice for every goal against it seemed. He’s a defensive and penalty liability out there and it was a smart choice to dump him and his contract to a team in exchange for a quality veteran forward like Patric Hornqvist, who waived his no movement clause to come to Florida too.
Mackenzie Weegar was re-signed for a 3 year deal, which is great because he really showed he could be relied upon last year while he played with Ekblad on the number one pairing. They’ll be the number one pairing again moving forward.
The Panthers defensive core lost a couple pairing matchups Matheson and Pysyk on the way out. Columbus cap casualty Markus Nutivaara comes in and so too does Radko Gudas. I’m guessing we will have a Yandle and Nutivaara second pairing and Stralman Gudas third unit.
Young defenseman Riley Stillman looks to steal a spot in the lineup as the seventh d-man.
The Panthers issue was defending and keeping the puck out of the net. I’m not sure if the addition of Markus Nutivaara and Radko Gudas solve that problem for the team, but they will most likely be an improvement on Mike Matheson.
Bob needs to be better and the team needs to figure out if Driedger or Montembeault is the backup. With 2 years left on Luongo cap recapture penalty of $1.092 million per season, it’s unlikely they will spend any additional cap space on a backup until that is gone. Aside from hoping for Bobrovsky to return to career average numbers there’s really nothing else that can be said here.
Florida Panthers 2020-2021 Prediction
5th-6th Central Division
With a full third of the top six forwards leaving and not being replaced, it’s tough to count on this team improving over how they finished last season. This team is placing a lot of faith in Bobrovsky to improve and some young forwards to take a step forward to fill gaps in the lineup. I’m not convinced Florida is a playoff team at this point, but they should be better than a couple basement dwelling teams.
That concludes our Florida Panthers 2020-21 Preview. Check to see if your team has been covered yet in our 2020-21 Season Preview Series.
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