The Panthers “dip” into the NHL free agent “pool” has resulted in immediate dividends early this 2013-14 season.
Whether it be; the Collective bargaining agreement (CBA), team imposed salary caps, youth movement or compliance buy-outs, a lot of quality NHL players, in all positions, found themselves without a team late in the off-season and early in fall training camps. Panthers GM Dale Tallon aggressively signed/invited a handful of players, and has hit the jackpot on most, if not all of them.
Starting in goal, the decision to invite, and then the ultimately signing of two-time Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup MVP Tim Thomas after the All Star’s self imposed “year-off sabbatical” brought skepticism around the circuit, but Timmy has been nothing short of spectacular in goal, staring in three of his six appearances, displaying his “battle at all costs” attitude and play.
Both Tom Gilbert and Matt Gilroy have fit in nicely in Coach Dineen’s blue line brigade, specializing in power play offence. Utility forward Jesse Winchester has proven his worth with aggressive penalty killing, fore checking, and face-offs. And where would the Cats be without “hired gun”, former 40-goal scorer Brad Boyes? He leads the Cats in goals, scoring chances, and salted away the Panthers shoot out win Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild with a nifty back hand move in the shootout.
The Panthers “Blueprint” is still based on the young guns like Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson, Aleksander Barkov, and others, but the decision to add immediate help through free agency to allow their other top prospects to develop further in the AHL will pay off down the road. That plan by Dale Tallon and company will be an exercise other teams will adopt in the near future. Welcome to the new NHL.