Anthony Duclair is ready to plant some roots in South Florida.
After suiting up for six different teams over his first seven seasons in the NHL, the 25-year-old winger is looking forward to finally unpacking his suitcase and settling down in one place for an extended period of time after putting pen to paper on a three-year contract extension with the Panthers on Thursday.
"I'm very happy to be back," Duclair said during a Zoom teleconference on Friday. "To be back for another three years is just awesome. I've worked very hard for this. For the organization to give me the chance to come back for another three years is an honor. I'm definitely not going to take it for granted."
Given that he represented himself during the negotiations, Duclair said that the deal felt extra special not only because he secured it on his own, but also because it was finalized on his father's birthday.
"That was a really special day not only for myself, but obviously for my whole family," Duclair said.
Playing on a one-year contract following an all-star campaign with the Senators in 2019-20, Duclair immediately found his footing with the Panthers this past season. Appearing in 43 games, the dynamic speedster accumulated 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) while also producing a career-high +27 rating.
What really stuck out about his play, however, were some of his advanced numbers.
Fitting in well with the up-tempo, possession-driven playstyle of the Panthers, Duclair posted a career-best 56.80 CF% at 5-on-5, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. Finding his greatest success on the club's top line, he also owned a 61.67 CF% while playing alongside Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe.
A dangerous player off the rush thanks to his elite set of wheels, Duclair ranked third on the team in rebounds created at 5-on-5 with 10, and also drew the fourth-most penalties (14) in all situations.
Most importantly, the Panthers outscored the opposition 37-16 when he was on the ice at 5-on-5.
"Anthony brought great speed and skill to our club this season," Panthers general manager Bill Zito said in the team's official release announcing the signing. "We look forward to seeing him continue to be a creative playmaker for us on the ice and a valuable member of our community. We are thrilled to have him as a part of the Panthers family for years to come."
With the Panthers finishing with the fourth-best record in the NHL last season, Duclair is confident he's hitching his wagon to one of the fastest rising teams in the league, adding that, even though they were knocked out of the playoffs by the back-to-back champion Lightning, they're still a "legit contender."
And with the team also locking up 25-year-old Gustav Forsling to a three-year extension on the same day his deal went through, Duclair envisions himself as part of the organization's primed-and-ready core alongside what he describes as other "young veterans" like Barkov (25), Verhaeghe (25), Aaron Ekblad (25), MacKenzie Weegar (27) and Jonathan Huberdeau (28), as well as up-and-coming talents like Anton Lundell (19), Spencer Knight (20), Grigori Denisenko (21), Aleksi Heponiemi (22) and Owen Tippett (22).
"We've got a couple young veterans, a lot of good prospects on the way, and a lot of good young guys already in our lineup already making a significant impact," Duclair said. "You add that with the veterans and leadership group we already have with our team, and it's been such a great mix. I think that's why we surprised a lot of people last year with our performance during the regular season. It can only go up from there. I'm really excited to come back to this group and keep moving forward."
Eager to pick up where they left off, Duclair said players are already ramping up their summer training.
"I think everybody's already started skating and training for the season," Duclair said. "For myself and my teammates, we're already excited to get back. We're a tight group here and we all stay in touch. It doesn't matter where guys go when they go back home, we've got good camaraderie, good chemistry."
As for his own offseason, Duclair is spending the vast majority of it right here in Fort Lauderdale.
After all, not every player has the luxury of being able to hit the ice and the beach in the same day.
"You can't beat Florida, that's for sure," Duclair, a native of Pointe-Claire, Quebec, said while flashing a big smile. "There's so many things to do off the ice. The lifestyle is unbelievable. You get to meet different people any time you go out. For myself, it's not close to home, but it's on the east coast. I'm sure my mom and my parents are more than happy to come down here to watch a few games, for sure."