The Florida Panthers got their guy. Sure, they missed on their ‘other’ possible guy when Artemi Panarin went to the Rangers, but in landing elite goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the Cats got a player who is actually more of a priority for their particular depth chart.
This was a widely-expected move, particularly once Roberto Luongo announced his retirement and James Reimer was dealt to Carolina. But officially, with a seven-year deal worth $70 million, Bobrovsky is taking his talents to South Florida.
For a franchise that had largely fallen out of relevancy for years, this is the injection the Panthers needed. The team has only made the playoffs once in the past seven seasons and still hasn’t won a playoff series since the magical run to the Stanley Cup final in 1996. But the pieces were mostly there. Aleksander Barkov is a two-way monster, Jonathan Huberdeau is coming off a 92-point campaign, Mike Hoffman rang up 36 goals and Vincent Trocheck was solid when healthy. The back end is led by Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle and the new coach is the legendary Joel Quenneville.
Goaltending is what this team needed.
Bobrovsky is coming off his most impressive post-season run ever, and while that’s kind of faint praise – he had been garbage in the playoffs before that – it was an important revelation. After all, we’re talking about a Vezina Trophy winner here. In the regular season, Bobrovsky had already proven himself to be one of the best in the NHL and in guiding Columbus to its first-ever playoff series win this spring, he got a major monkey off his back.
So now we re-set in Florida. Bobrovsky will be turning 31 in September and for a goaltender, that’s fine. Look at all the success Pekka Rinne continues to have in Nashville in his late 30s, for example. Goalies age differently and since Bobrovsky got a late start in North America, his body is actually probably a little younger than the number would indicate. A change to his conditioning a couple summers ago also paid huge dividends.
Is seven years too much? Obviously the Panthers had to go maximum term to make this happen, but there’s a decent chance Bobrovsky is still pretty good by Year 7 of this deal. Even if he only has five good years left in him, that’s a great window for Florida.
Just as important in the big picture is the fact GM Dale Tallon has now locked in all the most important pieces – with the exception of Hoffman, a UFA next summer – until at least the summer of 2022, when Barkov’s contract comes up. Which means Quenneville comes in with a relatively complete roster that still has some upside as Henrik Borgstrom finds his way in the NHL and kids like Aleksi Heponiemi and Owen Tippett begin to test the waters up front.
Though the Panthers are in a tough Atlantic Division, Tallon has set the table for a playoff berth here. Expectations should be high with Bobrovsky on board, Barkov in his prime and Quenneville steering the ship. Now it’s just a matter of executing the plan and staying healthy.
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