The number three has been worn by a total of six Florida Panthers in franchise history, from the original numero tres Paul Laus to current holder Keith Yandle. Everyone of the players to wear the numbers has been a defenseman, although Steven Kampfer would play forward for the Cats at times. Let’s take a look at the lineup…
The tough as nails Laus was the second defenseman the Panthers selected (after Milan Tichy) when initially stocking the team via the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft. Unlike Tichy, who was quickly moved to the original Winnipeg Jets for Brent Severyn, Laus would spend the entirety of his fruitful NHL career with the Cats. Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1989, Laus hadn’t played in the bigs until he joined the Panthers, and he would never see the minors again. He suited up in 39 games during Florida’s inaugural season, and scored his first two career goals, and then another 37 games in 1994-95, where he totaled seven assists. Laus became a full-timer in 1995-96 (you know, that season) and scored 3 goals and 6 assists while racking up 236 PIM. He was extremely effective in Florida’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, playing in 21 of 22 postseason games, while almost matching his regular season offensive output with a surprising two goals and eight points. Paul played 77 games in each of the next two seasons and in 1996-97 set an NHL record with 39 fighting majors while also setting career highs in assists (12), points (12), plus/minus (+13), and penalty minutes (313). He didn’t score a goal in either campaign, but that was never his bag. He finally lit the lamp again in 1998-99 and added nine assists and played in 75-plus games for the fifth straight season in 1999-00. Unfortunately, injuries limited Laus to a total of 70 games over his final two seasons. He retired after playing 45 games and scoring a career-best four goals in 2001-02. Laus is one of those original Panthers, whose hard work, grit and heavy fists will never be forgotten and his 1702 PIM remains a franchise record.
The late Karlis Skrastins was originally drafted by the Nashville Predators and also played for the Colorado Avalanche before he was acquired by the Panthers for fellow defenseman Ruslan Salei on February 26, 2008. In a odd twist of fate, both men lost their lives on September 7, 2011 when the plane carrying KHL club Yaroslavl Lokomotiv crashed on its way to Minsk to open the season. In 17 games after being acquired from the Avalanche, Skrastins scored his first goal as a Panther to close out the 2008-09 season. He played 80 games and produced four goals and a career-high 18 points in his only full season with the Cats. Skrastins recorded his 100th NHL point in a 3–2 loss against his original club, the Nashville Predators, on November 1, 2008. He would sign with the Dallas Stars in the summer of 2009 and spend his final two NHL seasons in Texas before he made the fateful decision to return to Europe.
The embodiment of a journeyman, Wilson had a long career that spanned many a different team and five different professional leagues. An undrafted defender out of Michigan Tech, he played his first seven NHL games for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005-06. Wilson signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Panthers organization on July 2, 2009. He produced an impressive 60 points in 75 games with the Rochester Americans to be named to the AHL’s Second All-Star Team, while also suiting up for two games with the Cats. He played 15 more games for the Panthers in 2010-11 (3G/2A) and put up 48 points in 66 games for the Amerks. After playing a fistful of NHL games for the Calgary Flames in 2011-12, Wilson headed to the KHL where he toiled for three different teams in five years. He retired in 2018 after spending the 2017-18 season in Sweden with AIK.
Originally drafted in the second round (31st overall) by the Buffalo Sabres in 2007, Brennan would go on to establish himself as an offensively-gifted AHL defenseman while appearing in 21 NHL games. Brennan played 19 games for the Panthers late in 2012-13 campaign after he was acquired from the Sabres for a fifth-round pick on March 15, 2013. In those 19 games, he scored twice and added seven assists, all NHL single-season career-highs. His stint in Sunrise was a short one, as he was traded from the Panthers to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Bobby Butler on June 14, 2013. After leaving the Cats, Brennan would play 13 NHL games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and rack up some impressive numbers with the Toronto Marlies, Rockford Icehogs and Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
A fourth round selection (93rd overall) of the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, Kampfer never played for that team, but has gone to appear in 211 NHL games and another 274 in the AHL. After spending some time with the Boston Bruins and Minnesota Wild, Kampfer agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with the New York Rangers on July 1, 2014. On October 6, he was traded to the Panthers (along with prospect Andrew Yogan) for minor-league forward Joey Crabb. He would appear in 25 games for Florida (and 42 with the San Antonio Rampage) and put up two goals and two assists during the 2014-15 campaign. Kampfer would play in 47 games (still his NHL high) in 2015-16 and finish with four assists and 26 PIM. After the Cats placed Kampfer on waivers and he went unclaimed, they dealt him back to the Rangers on November 8, 2016, along with a conditional pick, for defenseman Dylan McIlrath. Kampfer spent two seasons with the Rangers before returning to the Boston, where he is a current member of the organization.
Polarizing offensive-defenseman Keith Yandle is the current holder of number three. Yandle was selected by the then Phoenix Coyotes in the fourth round (105th overall) of the 2005 draft and played seven full seasons and parts of three others with the club before he was traded to the New York Rangers on March 1, 2015. He played the 2015-16 season with the Rangers and produced 47 points in 82 games. Yandle’s rights were traded by the Rangers to the Panthers on June 20, 2016 in exchange for a conditional 2017 fourth-round draft pick and a 2016 sixth-round draft pick. On June 23, he signed a seven-year, $44 million contract (ugh!) with Florida. In his first three seasons with the club, Yandle put up 41, 56 and 62 points. This season, he had amassed five goals and 40 assists in 69 games before the plug was plugged. The 33-year-old has played in 866 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the NHL and fourth longest in league history.
Who is your favorite Panthers #4?