The Florida Panthers were one of the busiest teams in the NHL this offseason and on Friday, crossed another item off their to-do list which upped their betting odds of winning next season.
The Panthers were the second-worst team in the NHL last season, but now they have signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a three-year contract extension in the neighborhood of $13 million. Have they done enough to move up the ladder and maybe get in the playoffs picture?
Keep Kulikov Was Key
We’ll get to the Panthers offseason spending in a second but keeping Kulikov was crucial for the Panthers. This is a team that has regularly had a tough team keeping their young stars, so keeping the 2011 first-round pick was crucial. While he doesn’t show up in the box score a lot, he’s one of the team’s best stay-at-home defenseman. Even though he’s only 24-years-old, the coaching staff has plenty of faith in him as he logged the second-most ice time minutes for the Panthers this season. He also plays on the penalty kill and the power play. It’s pretty evident that the Panthers have a nice core of young players including Kulikov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjustad. Now if their veteran additions pan out, maybe this team will ascend up the standings faster than most people think.
Panthers Surround Young Cast With Veterans
The Panthers know that they can’t get the job done with just youngsters. Even with all of the high draft picks they’ve been getting, that strategy hasn’t worked out. That’s why they’ve infused a lot of veterans. It started with the trade for goaltender Roberto Luongo at last year’s trade deadline. Then, in free agency, the Panthers splurged to get Dave Bolland ($5.5 M), Jussi Jokinen ($4 M) and Willie Mitchell ($4.25 M). That provides a lot of experience and leadership. If the coaching can get this team organized, there is now ample reason to believe this team can make the playoffs.
How To Bet The News
You know what, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the Panthers in the playoffs next season. Yes, they have a lot of work to do but the Eastern Conference is fairly weak. If the coaching can get everyone on the same page, this team definitely has the potential. The forwards unit should be able to put the puck in the net quite regularly. With Barkov, Bjustad, Huberdeau, Brad Boyes, Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Bolland, Jokinen and Sean Bergenheim, there’s no reason why this team should be 29th in scoring as they were last year. With good coaching, they should be top-15. As for their blue line, they’re looking at a top-four that includes Kulikov, Mitchell, Brian Campbell and Erik Gudbranson. That’s above average as well. In net, Luongo will provide steady goalkeeping, which is not something the Panthers have had.
I’m not saying that you should take a flier on their 75/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup. That’s crazy. At the same time, they shouldn’t be the longest shot in the NHL. If you can find a prop for them to make the playoffs, investing in the ‘yes’ wouldn’t be a crazy proposition. It could happen and you could cash in. The talent is there for this team.