Three down and three more to go. The Florida Panthers took more steps towards solidifying next year's roster, and the San Antonio Rampage roster, by inking defenseman Dylan Olsen and forwards Garrett Wilson and Ryan Martindale to new contracts. The financial terms of the contracts have not been disclosed yet, but Olsen's contract is two years and one-way, while Martindale and Wilson's contracts are one-year, two-way deals. That means the latter two are likely to start the season in the AHL unless they have a downright amazing training camp and preseason, something that isn't out of the question on an NHL club with questionable depth.
Olsen, acquired last season in a trade that sent Kris Versteeg to Chicago, is a former first-round draft pick by Panthers GM Dale Tallon during his days in the Windy City. After being sent to Florida, it didn't take long for Olsen to see time with the big club after starting the season in Rockford of the AHL. He would score 12 points over 44 games in a Cats sweater, and was a pleasant surprise both offensively and defensively after being paired up with Erik Gudbranson on the blue line. His chemistry with Gudbranson was apparent and the two played some of their best hockey of the season together before Gudbranson missed time with an orbital bone injury. Provided the financials of the deal are reasonable, this was a good move by the Panthers and Olsen could be a top-four defenseman next season.
Wilson saw very limited time in the big league last year, making his NHL debut March 18 against the San Jose Sharks. He suited up for three games but was noticeable at times, throwing his nearly 200 pound frame around and playing aggressively on the forecheck. He's projected to be a grinder at the NHL level, but he's likely to see at least one more season in the AHL, honing his game with the Rampage. A one-year deal that's two-way means Wilson will get a chance to play himself into a full time NHL role with a chance at being re-signed yet again the following year.
Martindale was acquired in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers this past January and at this point the jury is still out on his NHL career. This is a solid depth signing for the Rampage, as Martindale can be a force up the middle with his large frame, but he's run into major injury issues two of the last three seasons, including knee surgery. If he's able to recover and get back some of the form of his OHL days with the Ottawa 67's, he could definitely add some much needed depth at center for the Rampage, but it doesn't seem too likely at this point. Still, Tallon must see something to bring Martindale back for one more year on a two-way deal.
It's good to see Tallon and the Panthers retain Olsen, and we'll see regarding Wilson and Martindale. There are still several other notable RFAs that have been qualified and have not signed, including Dmitry Kulikov, Brandon Pirri, and Jimmy Hayes, who has taken the club to arbitration. Those will likely work themselves out in the coming weeks, especially Kulikov, who is rumored to be close to re-signing with the Panthers.