48 – The number of games the Florida Panthers will play in a lockout shortened campaign.
99 – The length, in days, of the 2013 National Hockey League season.
Those two numbers combined leaves little to no room for error, especially when the Panthers are on a mission to prove that last year’s SouthEast Division Championship win, the first in team history, was not a fluke. Every game from opening night on will be important, and every single point will matter. Florida must find ways to win, more importantly, they must do so consistently if they want another shot at the playoffs.
Before breaking down the forward, defensive, and goaltending positions of the Panthers roster let’s look back at who departed and arrived during a lockout lengthened off-season.
Krystofer Barch – RW
Jason Garrison – D
Bracken Kearns – C
Jonathan Matsumoto – C
Mikael Samuelsson – RW
Sean Sullivan – D
Bill Thomas – RW
Wojtek Wolski – LW
Two names stick out on this list, Jason Garrison and Mikael Samuelsson. There is no doubt that these two will be missed, especially on the powerplay. It will be up to the new comers, such as Filip Kuba, to fill the holes left by Garrison and Samuelsson.
Andre Deveaux – C
Jean-Francois Jacques – LW
Alex Kovalev – RW
Filip Kuba – D
Peter Mueller – C
George Parros – RW
Casey Wellman – C
The Panthers had two major issues last season, one of them being toughness. Erik Gudbranson tried to defend his teammates when needed but GM Dale Tallon and head coach Kevin Dineen probably did not like seeing their top defensive prospect put himself in danger on a nightly bases. The addition of George Parros will take the pressure off of Gudbranson and the other players not known as “tough guys” this year. Parros will also be a great protector for the rookies that earn roster spots, such as Johnathan Huberdeau.
Two other names on the arrivals list that deserve attention are Alex Kovalev and Peter Mueller. Both forwards, along with Johnathan Huberdeau, will make up Florida’s second line. Putting these three skilled players together could pay off big time for the Panthers and should take some of the offensive pressure off of their top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss, and Kris Versteeg. Also, Kovalev should be a good mentor for Huberdeau, even if it is only for the 2013 campaign.
Florida Panthers 2013 Opening Night Roster
* Indicates players on IR.
#9 Stephen Weiss “A” – C
#11 Johnathan Huberdeau – C/LW
#12 Jack Skille – RW
#13 Mike Santorelli – C
#14 Tomas Fleischmann – LW
#18 Shawn Matthias – C
#19 Scottie Upshall- LW
#20 Sean Bergenheim – LW *
#22 George Parros – RW
#25 Jerred Smithson – RW
#27 Alex Kovalev – RW
#32 Kris Versteeg – RW
#57 Marcel Goc – C *
#82 Tomas Kopecky – RW
#88 Peter Mueller – C
The weakest link from last season was clearly the offensive production from Florida’s forwards. In the span of an 82 game season the Cats lost 18 games in overtime and had a -24 goal differential. If the Panthers would have been able to score one extra goal during some of those 18 OT/SO losses they would have had more wins, a better differential, and they probably would have ran away with the SouthEast Division weeks before having to beat Carolina on the last night of the regular season to clinch. Thankfully Florida was able to do so, which means none of that really matters now, but that may not be the same case this season. The Panthers will need more offensive production from their forwards, especially the new comers and those who did not meet expectations last year. Isn’t that right Scottie Upshall and Mike Santorelli? Florida also needs to hope that their top line of Fleischmann, Weiss, and Versteeg produces as well as they did last season.
#4 Keaton Ellerby – D
#7 Dmitry Kulikov – D
#17 Filip Kuba – D
#23 Tyson Strachan – D
#43 Mike Weaver – D
#44 Erik Gudbranson – D *
#51 Brian Campbell “A” – D
#55 Ed Jovanovski “C” – D
Defense on most nights during the 2011-2012 season was not an issue for the Florida Panthers. Head coach Kevin Dineen put a system in place that worked well almost every game, making Florida’s defensive play their biggest strength last year. Florida also enjoyed some offensive production from their D group as they registered 151 points from the blue line in 2011-2012. The good news is that almost all of those point producing defensemen have returned. The bad news? Their biggest powerplay threat, Jason Garrison, left for Vancouver during the off-season. It will be up to the returning blueliners, as well as Filip Kuba, to fill the void left by Garrison on the PP. This would be a perfect time for youngster Dmitry Kulikov to finally have a big breakout year and establish himself as a true top 4 defenseman.
#30 Scott Clemmensen – G
#60 Jose Theodore – G
What is there to say that has not already been said about Florida’s goaltending last season? Jose Theodore exceeded expectations and proved to everyone that he still possesses the skills to be a starter in the National Hockey League while Scott Clemmensen did an admirable job as backup. These two goaltenders can clearly keep pucks out of the net until Jacob Markstrom is ready to take his rightful place between the pipes, which should be in the very near future.
Player to Watch: Johnathan Huberdeau
Does it really surprise anyone that Huberdeau is our player to watch this year? Florida’s top offensive prospect will finally make his debut in South Florida this season. The rookie will have to prove that he is ready for NHL hockey right from the start since he will lose a year off of his contract if he is not returned to his junior team after just six games instead of the usual ten. Thank the lockout shortened season for that rule. Hopefully being on a line with three-time National Hockey League all-star Alex Kovalev and highly skilled forward Peter Mueller will jump start Huberdeau’s offensive production as soon as possible.
This shortened season is a tough one to predict for any team, including the Florida Panthers. Personally I think a 48 game schedule will help the Cats, especially considering the fact that during the second half of last season they looked burned out and struggled to produce offense on a nightly bases. With that said, I see Florida having another successful year but I do not see them winning the SouthEast Division in 2013. The Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals have all made significant improvements, and the Winnipeg Jets will be just as competitive as before. Who do I think will win the SE? That will be revealed in a different article later today. Even though I do not think the Panthers will win their division I do believe they will make the playoffs again, but it will take a complete team effort, just like last season.
We hope that everyone enjoyed our 2013 Florida Panthers preview. Thankfully, the time for talk, and all of the guessing games, ends tonight when Florida plays host to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. Good luck to all 30 National Hockey League teams, and most importantly, let’s go Panthers.
It’s been a busy week in the NHL with a number of big games as well as big individual efforts by some top names around the league. Lets jump right into the list shall we?
1. Patrick Kane Chi – (4GP 2G 5A) Kane has started to heat up and proving why he was taken #1 overall in 2007 recording 2g and an assist against Nashville, an assist against Florida, and tallying 3 assists the next night in Tampa. Also finishing the week with an impressive +5 rating.
2. Nicklas Backstrom Wsh – (4GP 3G 5A) Backstrom, who started the season out slow recording 2g 8a in his teams first 8GP (impressive for a guy ‘slumping’ isn’t it?), recorded 8pts in the past 4 games including the game tying goal and OT GWG in a thrilling game against Anaheim.
3. Pekka Rinne Nsh – (4GP 3-0-1 2SO) After signing a 7 year $49m contract on his birthday Rinne proved why he was worth the money shutting out Anaheim. He finishes the week with a GAA just under 2.00 and a .937 sv%.
Adam Henrique NJD – (3GP 3G 2A), Tyler Seguin BOS – (3GP 4G 1A)
1. Brendan Morrison CGY – (3GP 0G 0A 5SOG) Missed the first 5 games of the season and since returning to his team has yet to register a point in 8 games.
2. Dustin Penner LAK – (3GP 0G 0A 3SOG) Zero points in his last 8 games and only one assist on the season (11 games).
3. Ryan Miller BUF – Only played in a grand total of 6:23 last week and in that time surrendered 3 goals. Winless in his last 3 games everyone is questioning “What happened?!” to this former Vezina trophy winner.
Kyle Okposo NYI – (3GP 0G 1A -3), Scottie Upshall FLA – (3GP 0G 0A -2)
Players to watch this upcoming week
1. Danny Briere PHI – Back from injury he looks to pick up where he left off and wants to continue to stockpile the points.
2. Ryan Getzlaf ANA – Hasn’t had his typical dominating season on Anaheim’s top line but he’s a competitor and will be looking to turn it around.
3. Kris Versteeg FLA – Has admitted to being frustrated not being able to find the back of the net lately yet he still continues to slowly rack up points on Florida’s top line. Look for him to net a couple of goals and get back into the swing of things.
General Manager Dale Tallon and Assistant GM Mike Santos held a press conference this morning at the BankAtlantic Center to introduce the newest members of the Florida Panthers. Sunshine State Hockey just wanted to post up a photo of the group that was taken by someone inside the organization.
Here’s another image of the press conference that was posted on the official Florida Panthers Facebook page.
To see the full set of photos from today’s press briefing at the BAC click here.
**Photo credit: Florida Panthers**
It’s finally National Hockey League free agency day! All thirty NHL General Managers will be looking to add players to their clubs to help them improve in the 2011-2012 season. Sunshine State Hockey will be live blogging all of the rumors, trades, and signings today from 12:00 PM EST to 5 PM EST.
11:42 AM – It looks like the party has already started so we might as well get the live blogging going. There are a couple re-signings/signings to report before noon.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed James Wisniewski to a six year deal worth $33 million.
The Minnesota Wild have re-signed Josh Harding to a 1 year contract for $750,000, so scratch him off the Panthers list.
Detroit re-signs both Patrick Eaves and Jonathan Ericsson to three year contracts.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have withdrawn their contract offer to Jaromir Jagr.
We will be back in twenty minutes for the official start of free agency.
12:02 PM – The free agent market is officially open. Here we go folks. Also worth mentioning that the Canucks re-signed Salo and Higgins before the market opened.
12:04 PM – Penguins have re-signed Tyler Kennedy to a 2 year, $2 million deal.
12:08 PM – We don’t see Brad Richards agreeing to a deal today, especially since GM’s are actually lining up to talk to him. It’s being reported that Detroit is out of the Jagr sweepstakes.
12:24 PM – Someone from the Denver post reported on Twitter moments ago that Colorado has contacted the Tomas Vokoun camp.
12:27 PM – Detroit re-signs Drew Miller to a 2 year deal.
12:38 PM – Devils hold on to Andy Greene by re-signing him to a four year contract.
12:43 PM – Tampa Bay has signed UFA goalie Mathieu Garon to a two year deal and agreed to an entry level contract with Brett Connolly.
12:51 PM – Two tough guys off the market. Chicago signs Jamal Mayers and Edmonton signs Ben Eager. One year contract for Mayers, three years for Eager.
12:53 PM - Florida Panthers have signed goalie Jose Theodore to a 2 year deal. This would make us think that the Panthers and Vokoun are finished.
1:06 PM – Dallas signs Adam Pardy for two years.
1:11 PM – The Florida Panthers have signed Scottie Upshall to a four year contract worth $14 million.
1:20 PM – The Philadelphia Flyers have signed Jaromir Jagr.
1:25 PM – Some minor signings to announce. The Blues re-sign Matt D’Agostini to a two year deal. Phoenix signs Mike Smith, Boyd Gordon, and Raffi Torres. Washington signs Jeff Halpern to a one year deal.
1:32 PM – The Stars sign former Panther Radek Dvorak to a one year contract worth $1.5 million while Jan Hejda joins Colorado for four years.
1:34 PM – The Jagr to Philadelphia deal is for one year, $3.3 million. That’s a bit expensive for someone at the end of his career.
1:35 PM – Panthers bring back former Cat D-man Ed Jovanovski for four years, $16.5 million. 1:47 PM – The Panthers have made one of the biggest splashes in the free agent market during day 1 by signing Jose Theodore, Scottie Upshall, and Ed Jovanovski.
1:50 PM – Blackhawks sign forward Andrew Brunette.
1:54 PM – The Ed Jovanovski contract breaks down like this: $4M, $4.25M, $4.25M, $4M. 1:57 PM – Florida Panthers sign Marcel Goc to a three year contract.
2:02 PM – It seems we have our first trade of the day. The Washington Capitals have traded goalie Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for a 1st round pick and a 2nd round pick in either 2012 or 2013.
2:07 PM – A lot of people are wondering what’s going to happen to Tomas Vokoun. Some say Florida still might be in the mix, but we doubt that.
2:08 PM - Marcel Goc’s contract is three years, $1.73 million each year.
2:18 PM – This one got lost in the frenzy. The Flyers signed former Panthers D-man Andreas Lilja.
2:21 PM – The three biggest names on the market are still available even after all these signings. Brad Richards, Tomas Vokoun, and Tomas Kaberle all still looking for places to call home.
2:26 PM – Radim Vrbata re-signs with the Coyotes for $9 million over three years.
2:31 PM – Max Talbot signs with the Philadelphia Flyers. With Jagr and Talbot choosing Philly over Pittsburgh the rivalry gets a little more heated.
2:34 PM – Reports claim that the Colorado Avalanche have signed Semyon Varlamov to a two year deal worth $5.5 million. The contract for Max Talbot in Philly is five years, $9 million.
2:37 PM – Only 8 of the top 30 free agents ranked by the Fourth Period have been signed.
2:38 PM – The Winnipeg Jets make their first signing of the day and it’s hometown boy Derek Meech. The contract is a two way deal for one year.
2:48 PM – Carolina Hurricanes sign goalie Brian Boucher for two years at $1.9 million.
2:52 PM – Peter Budaj signs with Montreal for two years.
3:00 PM – Rangers sign Mike Rupp to a three year deal worth $4.5 million.
3:06 PM – Red Wings sign Mike Commodore.
3:11 PM – We are taking a ten minute break. Hopefully nothing crazy happens while we are gone.
3:27 PM – We’re back with some updates. Steve Sullivan signs a one year deal with the Penguins. New York Islanders sign Marty Reasoner to a two year deal. Washington locks up Joel Ward and Roman Hamrlik. Ward for four years, Hamrlik for two.
3:34 PM – Erik Cole has signed with the Montreal Canadiens. The deal is for four years at $18 million.
3:37 PM – Edmonton signs Darcy Hordichuk and Cam Barker. Alex Auld signs with the Ottawa Senators for one year. Two former Panthers netminders working together in Ottawa.
3:44 PM – New Panthers: Ed Jovanovski, Marcel Goc, Scottie Upshall, Jose Theodore. Panthers leaving Sunrise: Darcy Hordichuk, Marty Reasoner, (Tomas Vokoun?).
4:00 PM – The Florida Panthers have acquired Kris Versteeg from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 2nd round pick in either the 2012 draft or the 2013 draft and a 3rd round pick.
4:10 PM – Edmonton trades Kurtis Foster to the Ducks for Andy Sutton.
4:12 PM – The Buffalo Sabres have signed Ville Leino to a six year deal worth $27 million.
4:18 PM – Another signing that slipped through. The Boston Bruins have signed Benoit Pouliot to a one year deal.
4:20 PM – Marco Sturm signs with the Vancouver Canucks for one year, $2.2 million. A bit overpaid for Mr. Sturm’s services.
4:22 PM – Hurricanes sign forward Alexei Ponikarovsky.
4:25 PM – The league is taking notice that the Florida Panthers mean business. This tweet just came in from Anaheim forward Bobby Ryan:
“Anybody feel like FLA is winning the race today? Tons of action! Some good pickups too.”
4:34 PM – Sheldon Souray has signed with the Dallas Stars for one year.
4:35 PM – San Jose realizes it’s the first day of free agency and signs Jim Vandermeer to a one year deal.
4:40 PM – 20 minutes until our live coverage of day one comes to an end. It’s been fun.
5:00 PM – Last deal of the day to end our live coverage on is one for the Florida Panthers. The Cats have signed Tomas Fleischmann to a four year deal worth $18 million.
A big thanks to everyone who joined Sunshine State Hockey for our live coverage of the first day of free agency. As soon as we hear any more news about the Florida Panthers, Brad Richards, Tomas Vokoun, or any other top free agents we will publish it.