At some point in your life, odds are someone has asked you the following question: "Where are we with this?"
Actually, this is standard line my boss uses that often results in immediate perspiration and dry mouth for those caught in its crosshairs.
When it comes to the Florida Panthers, "where are we with this," is something fans have been asking for over 20 years...and in their defense, it's a legitimate question for an organization starved for direction and success, and it seems that this year's offseason still has people asking this.
As with anything, folks are entitled to their opinions, and when it comes to the Cats, there's certainly no shortage of them. I find it interesting seeing so many fans are split on Zito's moves, or lack of (if that's how they see it).
Now...I'm by no means a hockey "expert" or "insider..."
With that in mind, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the moves so far.
In case you forgot, here's a nice breakdown of Zito's work via Litter Box Cats
- Patric Hornqvist - acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins on September 24.
- Markus Nutivaara - acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 8.
- Radko Gudas - signed a three-year $7.5 million contract on October 9.
- Carter Verhaeghe - signed a two-year, $2 million contract on October 9.
- Alexander Wennberg - signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract on October 9.
- Vinnie Hinostroza - signed a one-year, $1 million contract on October 9.
- Ryan Lomberg - signed a one-year, $1 million contract on October 9.
- Philippe Desrosiers - re-signed to a one-year, two-way contract on October 14.
- Mike Matheson - traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on September 24.
- Colton Sceviour - traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on September 24.
- Josh Brown - traded to the Ottawa Senators on October 2.
- Cliff Pu - traded to the the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 8.
- Mark Pysyk - signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Dallas Stars on October 10.
- Dryden Hunt - signed a one-year contract, two-way contract with the Arizona Coyotes on October 10.
Dominic Toninato - signed a one-year contract, two-way contract with the Winnipeg Jets on October 10.
- Lucas Wallmark - signed a one-year $950,000 contract with the Chicago Blackhawks on October 12.
- Evgenii Dadonov - signed a thee-year, $15 million contract with the Ottawa Senators on October 15.
- Brian Boyle - unrestricted free agent
- Erik Haula - unrestricted free agent
- Mike Hoffman - unrestricted free agent
What I Like
To use another bossism (shudder), at a "high level," I think the Panthers will be a much hungrier team due to the contracts handed out so far. Aside from Gudas (who was a little bit of an overpayment), the majority of the new signings are in the "prove it" realm.
This year saw a lot of shorter deals made with GMs factoring in COVID's uncertainty, expansion, etc. I have to believe this was part of Zito's thinking, but I also think these deals are a way of him building a base for the future.
In the past, one thing you could always count on Florida doing was tying up a lot of money in a few guys with no real depth, support system or plan around them. The joke has always been that guys come here and coast out their contracts and/or careers.
This series of low-risk-potential-reward signings, along with some of the young guns coming in, might be what helps this team build depth, without breaking the bank - especially heading into an uncertain season. My hope is that it also creates an urgency that pushes this team. Let's be honest, there's too much complacency here.
Guys like Wennberg are here (or at least should be here) to show they can fill out Florida's needs and will hopefully challenge other guys. If they can't, they'll be gone at the deadline or end of the year.
Let's not forget the importance of moving that Matheson contract and getting Hornqvuist in the deal...
What I don't Like So Far
Losing Dadonov was a surprise and a big time bummer. I thought he was about as certain as a resign as they come. A more well-rounded player than Hoff (in my opinion), he fit well on this roster. I thought the reason we didn't see a forward signing from the available UFAs was because they were keying in on Daddy, or Hoff - but I way more preferred Dadonov. With Hoffman looking like he's most likely not returning, I wonder if they plan on still adding up front, or rolling with the signings they already made and the youth in the system..?
I had high hopes Yandle would be moved. While we don't know if they want to keep him, or are trying to move him and can't, I'll be disappointed if he's still in the lineup come opening night.
Weegar not being signed yet makes me nervous. I think he has emerged as the most important piece on the blue line. Sure, he has his injury concerns, but so does a guy like Ekblad. I would personally rather resign Weegar and trade Ekblad. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if they do with Weegs...
So...Where Are We With This?
I think the longer things go, the more I have to remove myself from the idea of the "big splash" signing(s). I thought the Cats were a couple big names away from really doing something, but, you know what...maybe they aren't, and maybe Zito sees that.
We've been so conditioned as Panthers fans to expect signings, but really not much of a plan.
So it might be easy to look at Zito's moves on the surface and think they're nothing because they aren't the "big" names. And maybe that's part of the plan...
Rather than getting big names for the sake of getting big names, I think Zito's is looking to sign guys that make sense for organ-I-zation and system Q is trying to run.
They desperately need toughness on the backend, so they sign Gudas. Steadier defense is also needed, and so Nutivaara comes into play. They need a guy to disrupt out front and bring leadership/hold guys accountable, so they trade for Hornqvist. They are thin down the middle, so Wennberg and Verhaeghe sign with something to prove. Depth and toughness at forward was also needed, so guys like Lomberg (toughness) and Hinostroza (wheels) come aboard.
Those guys - along with the current rostered players, and young guns they'll bring into the fold - could make for an exciting team. And the best part? They could still make moves.
At the end of the day I believe Zito is trying to put together a rounded, consistent team. They might not have the "sexy" names, but the hope is that gaps are filled and they'll have a steady base to take the next step.
I can't take another season of inconsistency and uninspired play. I think Zito is laying the framework to get over this hump. The window is closing and these guys can't be spinning their wheels anymore.
We'll have to wait and see how these guys gel. This year will be very telling...
What do you guys think of the moves so far?
As always: Go Panthers!