It's been a busy summer for the Panthers. Tons of free agent signings, some trades, and some qualifying offers for restricted free agents. Oh, and a new AHL affiliate, some trades for said affiliate's depth, and some signings for it as well. For the most part, the entire roster has been revamped, as well as the entire organization, and it's very clear things are changing. Aside from a handful of players from last year's roster, the opening day lineup is going to be completely foreign to Panther fans, and considering the results from last season, that's a good thing.
There are some mainstays from last year's lineup returning though: center Stephen Weiss and left wing David Booth are no-brainers, as well as defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. Joining them are forwards Evgeni Dadonov and Scott Timmins, defensemen Mike Weaver and Jason Garrison, and goalie Scott Clemmensen. RFA Mike Santorelli and UFA Keaton Ellerby were brought back, as well as Jack Skille. But there's one name fans know that's missing from this list.
Where's Shawn Matthias?
Matthias, known as "Danger" to his teammates, is also an RFA and has yet to be officially signed, despite a qualifying offer being submitted in June. Matthias was having a pretty decent year on a pretty mediocre team last season, and would have posted career highs in points if not for a nasty ankle injury suffered in January of this year. The injury kept him out until almost the end of the season, and when he did return in April in time for the last couple weeks of games, he re-aggravated the injury and was forced to sit yet again.
He was moved around quite a bit last season when healthy, playing on the second, third and fourth lines all throughout his 51 games. Former Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer used him in a lot of situations but never really let him get settled with consistent linemates, and it would often show in his play. Even with some of the adversity he had to deal with last year, he posted an even plus/minus rating and finished with an on-ice Corsi rating higher than Santorelli or Marty Reasoner. Granted, Matthias played against lower level opposition most of the time (his Corsi QoC was lower than Santorelli, who often played on the top two lines), but considering how young Matthias is and how inconsistent his environment was, he turned in a relatively good season.
Clearly management thinks he's worth keeping or he wouldn't have been tendered a qualifying offer. But where does he fit in the lineup right now? Let's take a look at what is likely the team's current depth chart at center: