Though a lean offseason has left fans of the Florida Panthers begging for more, nearly five weeks after the free agent "frenzy" began the then-sparse crop has been harvested down to nothing. Witnessed has been the shift of focus from players like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to Matt Carle and Jason Garrison, then a long dragging wait to see where Alexander Semin would land. Now we reside in the Shane Doan era, and the future isn't bright once he takes himself off the market. Beyond the Doan barrier is a free agent wasteland.
And yet we're hearing each day how Florida must get better to compete in an improved Southeast Division. Well, at this point there isn't much that can be done outside of the proposed Roberto Luongo trade; for the most part the roster is set save maybe one more free agent addition. The truth is, that possible other addition probably can't make much of a dent in the perceived lack of scoring Florida will have in the 2012-13 season, so maybe the better question to ask is what other needs could the addition address.
Breakin' it down after the jump
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Jonathan Huberdeau - Peter Mueller - Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
Jack Skille - Shawn Matthias/Jerred Smithson - George Parros
Though it looks just peachy on the surface, there is undoubtedly room to improve on the bottom six. Luckily for Florida, the remaining free agents are nothing but aging plugs good for 6-8 goals who would fit right in. Bringing in another player to share penalty killing responsibilities or add leadership to the locker room would not be opposed by me, at the right price. Lets look at some of the better free agents left on the market:
|2011 - Shane Doan||79||22||28||50||-8||48||5||0||5||226|
Who wouldn't want Doan on the Panthers? That's right, no one. Too bad this one just isn't happening, as the demands he wants to leave the Coyotes are outrageous. Sorry, lil' cousin Keaton Ellerby isn't going to drive the price down.
How about something more realistic?
|2011 - Petr Sykora||82||21||23||44||4||40||4||0||6||170|
I'm surprised Sykora hasn't gotten more attention, especially since he only finished with 6 fewer points than Doan and likely isn't demanding a huge contract. At 35, he's certainly on the downside of his career but pulling together a 21 goal campaign after being banished to the KHL nullifies that point to an extent. Sykora would be a useful player in several lights; for one his production probably wouldn't drop too much since he was given third line minutes with the Devils(and he'd slide into Kopecky's spot on FLA's 3rd line, freeing up TomKop for the fourth line where he sorta belongs). Sykora was 6th in PPTOI/G for the Devils last season meaning he'd add a new element to the Panthers powerplay, he also had his fair share of takeaways. For an aging player who can put up good numbers and avoid injury, Tallon may just have to make a move if Sykora goes unclaimed for much longer. Those old guys like the climate, too.
|2011 - Jason Arnott||72||17||17||34||13||26||6||0||3||142|
Arnott is similar to Skyora in that he's old as the hills yet finds a way to put goals on the scoreboard. Arnott probably came into free agency as one of the better leaders behind Parise and Doan, and the fact that he's averaged just over 17 goals in the last three seasons split between 4 teams suggests consistency. Again, like Sykora these numbers were posted with third line minutes and respectable powerplay TOI.
The only problem here? Arnott is a center, and Florida already has the perfect third line center in Marcel Goc who could probably outscore Arnott next season. So what's the solution? Bump Arnott down to the fourth line, Matthias to wing and someone to the pressbox and wait for Mueller to get injured.
|2011 - Daymond Langkow||73||11||19||30||-4||14||1||0||1||112|
If adding Arnott creates too much of a logjam for the bottom six centers, Langkow could be a better option. Though down the stretch Langkow was given upwards of second line minutes, he'd almost be assured the fourth line spot with Florida leaving Goc to the 3rd line. At 26 he's a veteran, and with some powerplay and penalty killing roles in Phoenix he might be a better utility player than Arnott or Sykora. He's just getting old and isn't terribly flashy, in the end would it really be better to add another center keeping young guys like Drew Shore down in the AHL if Langkow doesn't turn out to be that impressive? I'd steer clear.
|2011 - Andrew Brunette||78||12||15||27||-13||4||4||0||0||75|
I like Andrew Brunette, I really do. The only problem is that I liked him better when he was scoring 50+ points and he wasn't 39. Looking back on his stat sheet, the drop off from his 46 point 10-11 campaign with the scoring dry Wild to a 27 point season with Chicago's brimming offense doesn't paint a pretty picture for me. Although his ice time dropped between teams, the change wasn't substantial; this is probably another case of a player simply aging out of the league. He'd make a good 4th line left wing and possibly log some time on the powerplay, but I'm not convinced signing him in Florida would be a smart move.
|2011 - Dominic Moore||79||4||21||25||-18||54||0||1||1||103|
See the good thing about Dominic Moore is at least you can trade him at the deadline for a second rounder. Moore had a disastrous season with a disastrous Tampa Bay team, but there really isn't any reason to believe he can't bounce back and have a good 8-10 goal season. Moore is only 32, meaning next season probably won't be his last like some of the others listed above. Moore is also a center, and though he was given good minutes last season his unimpressive campaign means he would have to out battle Goc lest he be happy with fourth line minutes. Moore has good hockey sense, was liked in his previous stint with Florida in 09-10 and can kill penalties. I doubt he signs in Florida, but I wouldn't mind seeing him in red.
|2011 - Brian Rolston||70||7||17||24||-5||14||1||0||2||151|
No. Just no.
|2011 - Radek Dvorak||73||4||17||21||-16||12||0||1||0||83|
After 35 years, Dvo has still got it goin' on. Though his scoring dropped from 10-11, Dvorak's point total stayed consistent filling in the Stars' third line and he still held his own on the penalty kill. As a right wing Dvorak would make a good replacement when Skille is inevitably injured and could swap with Kopecky as a set-up guy for Goc and Bergenheim. I'd like to see this signing happen not only because Dvorak was a fan favorite with Florida and was one of the old time-y Panthers, but because I feel he still has something left to give in what would be his third stop in Sunrise.
|2011 - Mike Knuble||72||6||12||18||-15||32||0||0||0||91|
Need a good reason to skip over Knuble? He dropped 18 goals over the course of the last two seasons and turned 41 a month ago.
|2011 - Kristian Huselius||2||0||0||0||-2||2||0||0||0||2|
I know the reclamation project worked for Fleischmann, but Huselius has played only 41 games over the last two seasons. With Mueller getting the rehab spot this season, there really isn't room for another player that might play next season, and at least with Mueller there's reason to believe he's ready to play again. Huselius is another story, one that the worst team in the league didn't want to resign. Until he shows signs that he's back to normal, I highly doubt Tallon would risk the money.