The Florida Panthers are having a rocky 2022-23 season. They currently sit one point out of the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference behind both the Detroit Red Wings and the New York Rangers with 28 points and a record of 12-9-4. At this point last season, they were 16-4-3 with 35 points, a seven-point dropoff.
The team currently is facing a ton of issues on the ice when it comes to injury and lack of defensive play. The three things the Panthers are looking for in their stocking this holiday season are a healthy roster, a new defensive piece onto their roster, and some extra cash to make more moves.
A Healthy Roster
Even before the year started, the Panthers were already facing injury problems. Forward Anthony Duclair was deemed out before the All-Star break due to an Achilles tendon injury in which he had successful surgery to repair it.
As the season progressed, the infirmary started getting fuller. Forward and captain Aleksander Barkov has missed over a week of time with a non-covid illness, forward Anton Lundell has missed the last couple of games with a lower-body injury, forward Patric Hornqvist was placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) with an upper-body injury and defenseman Radko Gudas with a head injury.
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Even before then, they had to suffer absences from defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour. On the bright side, other than Duclair and Hornqvist, the injury list for everyone else involved will not be long-term. But, the lack of depth on the roster is starting to show with each player lost.
A New Defenseman
Since trading MacKenzie Weegar this past offseason, the Panthers haven’t found a replacement to fill the void, as well as injuries piling up. Marc Staal has struggled mightily this season with a minus-7 rating and three assists, so far. Their top defensive piece in Ekblad has also regressed as of late, currently holding a minus-5 rating despite missing time.
Florida has already called up a defensive prospect in Matt Kiersted due to injury. But, they need to look into options in the free agent market or look to make a move come the deadline as they did last season to help with a push towards the postseason. The current team is way too talented to have defensive issues hold them back from the playoffs.
When it comes to the cap, the Panthers are currently sitting in cap hell with no cap space to work with and have used nearly $5 million in LTIR funds. Some of their call-ups had to be emergency types so that it does not go against the Cats’ payroll. Nevertheless, they need to find a way to shore up some extra dollars.
With the recent resurgence of Spencer Knight, they could look to find a way to get rid of Sergei Bobrovsky. But, it is more than likely they’ll have to retain some sort of salary. In addition, he’ll have to waive his no-movement clause (NMC). In the grand scheme of things, they may look to dish out one of their more expensive pieces that are fair game just to get some flexibility.
Will they Get Their Presents or a Lump of Coal?
The Panthers still have time to right the ship, and they’re off to a good start to doing so as they’ve won their last two games and have received points in four of their last five. But, with every game passing, it feels as if an injury is inevitable. It does not help that general manager Bill Zito’s hands are practically tied with their cap situation, and they can only make emergency moves unless someone is dealt.
But the trade deadline is still some months away, and the team will be healthier sooner than later. The Panthers are still in a good spot for the last playoff spot, and they’re continuing to play at a competitive level. Hopefully, this will simply be a rough patch, and there will be better days ahead for the South Florida hockey club.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!