On Friday, the Florida Panthers signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a three-year contract extension, though the long-time rumor mill subject may not play out all three seasons with the Panthers. We’ll see.
With Kulikov, the Panthers defense is taking pretty good shape. Brian Campbell, despite carrying a very heavy cap hit, is the most productive and best possession player on their blueline. Kulikov and likely third-pair guy Dylan Olsen had positive Corsi relative percentages in 2013-14, while Erik Gudbranson had a 51.2 percent 5-on-5 Corsi for percentage – not bad at all for a defensive blueliner. Willie Mitchell replaces Ed Jovanovski for that experience and Aaron Ekblad is brand new.
Florida is a team of promise and hope that never fulfills its prophecy. Jonathan Huberdeau should bounce back some from a disappointing sophomore season. Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad have all sorts of potential to become a dominant 1-2 force down the middle, but they’re a few years away from hitting their primes. Jussi Jokinen was a good, quiet signing. Dave Bolland provides depth and, hopefully, doesn’t see more than third or fourth line duty. If the Panthers’ younger players could just grow a little and give the team some more, the pieces would be in place for this team to make a jump up the standings.
Ya. We’ve all heard this tune before.
But what if the Panthers could get into the post-season, or at least into the race, if their kids did not improve at all?
The pieces are in place for that, too. Florida will be in the hunt next season. Read more