While there were some heftier contracts given out so far during this year’s Free Agency period, it seemed many teams opted for contracts in the 1-3 year range. Some experts are pointing to COVID’s uncertainty on next year’s season, and expansion, being a major factors in the decision-making when it comes to these deals.
Right in the mix of these deals was new Panthers GM, Bill Zito. It looks like his plan was to add toughness and forward depth. So let’s break down the new signings (thus far)...
Radko Gudas (D): 3-Years, $2.5 M/year
This one caught me by surprise. I’ve never been a big fan of Gudas, but he brings toughness that is sorely-needed for this team. I’m hoping he’ll be one of those cases where he’s that guy you don’t like on other teams, but like when he’s on your team. Heavy body with a heavy shot - let’s see what he can do.
In 63 games with the Caps last season, he notched 2 goals, 15 points and 40 PIM.
Does anyone remember this?
Carter Verhaeghe (C): 2-Years, $2 M
I don’t know a whole lot about him, but I Rats thought he looked good in the glimpses we saw of him playing against the Cats and during his stints in the playoffs.
Verhaeghe scored 9 goals and had 4 assists in 52 games with TBL and 2 assists during their playoff run.
“Carter Verhaeghe is a guy now with a Stanley Cup pedigree who can play up and down the lineup with some upside. That was something that we targeted ... looking for sort of younger talent who might have some upside, might be buried, might be behind opportunities on the clubs they were on and is a guy we're real excited about seeing exactly what he can do and maybe providing some opportunity here to grow."
Alexander Wennberg (C): 1-Year
After seeing his points steadily decrease over each year of his contract, the Blue Jackets bought out the finals three years of Wennberg’s deal. I wouldn’t let that scare you though. Check out what Zito had to say about him:
“Alex Wennberg is obviously a guy I'm familiar with who can play center and wing and he can play in a couple of different roles. He can kill penalties. He's a very smart, cerebral player. He can be netfront on a power play. He can be on the side wall on a power play. He's a guy who is excited about trying to, I wouldn't say reinvent himself but jump-start himself."
Sounds like he’s hungry to get things moving in the right direction again.
Vinnie Hinotroza (RW): 1-Year
Vinnie is a guy I really liked when he was in Chicago. He has a great engine, but sputters a bit when it comes to finishing. It seemed that trend continued when he was moved to Arizona. He notched five goals and 17 assists in 68 games during the 2019-20 season. I know there’s more in those mitts.
I think fCats fans will really like him. He puts forth solid effort, has speed and creates good offensive opportunities with it. Not to mention, Q is familiar with him...
Ryan Lomberg (LW): 2-Year
Sounds like an AHL/NHL fringe guy with some physicality and snarl to his game (excellent).
Zito: “Ryan is a high-energy forward who doesn’t shy away from a physical game. We are excited for what he can bring to our team.”
According to Fox Sports:
Lomberg, 25, has appeared in 11 National Hockey League games with the Calgary Flames (2017-18 to 2018-19), registering one assist and 32 PIM.
In 2019-20, Lomberg, recorded 20 points (11-9-20) over 21 regular season games with the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League (AHL).
The 5-foot-9, 187-pound native of Richmond Hill, Ontario, has played in 219 career AHL games all with Stockton (2015-16 to 2019-20), producing 109 points (49-60-109) and 365 PIM. In 2014-15, he played in 43 regular season games with the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL, posting 35 points (18-17-35) and notched six points (3-3-6) over 12 playoff games.
Undrafted, the University of Maine alum recorded 32 points (18-14-32) over 66 games (2012-13 to 2013-14). In 2014-15, played 46 games with the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League (USHL), amassing 43 points (24-19-43) and 146 PIM.
Overall Free Agent/Trade Score (so far): B
It seems like Zito is bolstering up the bottom forward lines (though I think Wennberg will be 2C) and defensive pairings. I like him bringing in someone he’s familiar with in Wennberg, and adding toughness with Gudas.
I still think there’s some moves to be made and I have read some different reports/rumors that say Florida is not done yet, so I’m looking forward to seeing what else gets done.
Now the Bad News...
It appears Weegar has filed for arbitration. I could be remembering wrong, but didn’t he file before the 2018 or 2019 season?
According to Litter Box Cats:
”Since finishing his entry-level contract, Weegar has played the last three seasons on a series of one-year deals and made $1.6 million last year after agreeing to terms with the Cats before his arbitration hearing was held.
During the truncated 2019-20 season, Weegar, 26, played in 45 regular games and set new career-high in goals (7) and points (18) while matching his career-high in assists (11).”
There are persistent trade rumors (covered on NHL Network too) linking Weegar to TOR. Should be interesting to see what happens...
It might just be me, but I think there’s still some work Zito can do here with this roster. Moving Yandle would be huge. The rumor is the only team he’d go to is BOS. Wonder if the Bruins have any interest with Krug’s departure. I would be surprised, but you never know - especially with Chara’s decision lingering.
I’m curious to see if Zito makes anymore moves - I’m hoping he does.
What do you guys think?
Either way, they’re off to a good start...Go Panthers!