The Panthers changed so much during the off-season, but the place to start is fairly obvious. When the Panthers acquired Brian Campbell from the Chicago Blackhawks for Rostislav Olesz during the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, they set the standard for all their other off-season moves. The Panthers needed to add an absurd amount of salary just to reach the salary cap floor, but with the acquisition of Campbell, they showed that they were looking to add veterans – some of whom are significant question marks going into the 2011-12 campaign – to long-term contracts, as opposed to inking a lot of one or two-year deals as stopgap measures until their farm players are able to take over.
Beyond that, they also inked netminder Jose Theodore to replace Tomas Vokoun, who signed with the Washington Capitals.
Projected Top Two Lines
David Booth-Stephen Weiss-Jack Skille
Kris Versteeg-Tomas Fleischmann- Evgeny Dadonov
Battle For Jobs
Scottie Upshall will compete for a top-six spot and it might not take much for him to wrestle one away from Skille or Dadonov.
Blueliner Erik Gudbranson is worth keeping a close eye on during training camp. He might have made the Panthers last season, but his contract negotiations broke down before the start of the 2010-11 campaign. He inked an entry-level contract over the summer so that shouldn't be an issue this time around.
Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen should battle for the number one gig. Theodore has the inside track and will probably be the team's opening game starter. However, Clemmensen could end up overtaking him at some point during the season.
At the time of writing, it looks like all of the Panthers' major players will be ready for training camp.
Player To Watch
There are a couple great choices on the Panthers, including Gudbranson, who we mentioned above. However, we'll go with Jack Skille. He has just 27 points in his first 92 NHL games, but he didn't get much playing time with the Chicago Blackhawks. Now that he's with the Florida Panthers, that should change.