Pending UFAs: Scott Gomez, Krys Barch, Jesse Winchester, Tom Gilbert, Scott Clemmensen, Ryan Whitney, Matt Gilroy, Mike Mottau.
Pending RFAs: Dylan Olsen, Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov, Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Pirri.
Looking to add: The Panthers need help everywhere but between the pipes. They have plenty of prospects with very high upside, but no veteran star forward who can lead the charge. Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad could break out this year, three years from now, or never. Who knows? Without a top-end free agent being brought in, such as a Thomas Vanek, the breakout season for these kids is probably going to happen later rather than sooner.
Ready for full-time: In 2013-14, half of the Panthers team seemed to be prospects making the jump to full-time duty. That’s the reason the team finished 29th. Huberdeau, Barkov, Bjugstad, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Hayes are in the NHL to stay. By the end of the campaign, Drew Shore, Vincent Trocheck and Quinton Howden were up with the big club, and each of those three could feasibly stick for good in 2014-15.
Of the three, only Trocheck has a good shot at getting on any fantasy rosters. Down the stretch, he was often seeing more than 20 minutes of ice time and wound up with eight points in his last 16 contests (and a minus-6). He had 42 points in 55 games as an AHL rookie for San Antonio prior to getting recalled.
Fantasy Outlook: As is the case with all rebuilding teams, the Panthers are stocked with youth and prospects. But other than Tomas Fleischmann and Brian Campbell, the team does not have any veteran skaters with great upside. That will likely slow the rebuild process and will make for some painful seasons ahead. Without a rebound campaign from Huberdeau, and barring some of the other kids taking a big step forward, you’re probably going to see another season without any 50-point players. In 2013-14, the top scorer (Bjugstad) had just 38 points. Not too many fantasy owners are targeting Florida players. It’s nice to have prospects, but not when you have to wait three years on them. Fantasy Grade: D (last year was B+)