The solidification of the Panthers present and future continues with the signing of defenseman Bryan Allen. The 5 year deal keeps Allen on the Panthers blue line for the prime years of his career. In his first Florida season he set career highs in points and provided the Cats with much needed size and toughness on defense. When Allen joined Jay Bouwmeester in the top pairing the duo took off and meshed well together. The thought here is these two will team up for a long time. Bouwmeester is under contract as are fellow defensemen Ruslan Salei and Mike Van Ryn (three years remaining each). Factoring in the additions of Cory Murphy, signed from Finland, and Noah Welch, acquired at last year's trade deadline, the Panthers are solid on the blue line. Branislav Mezei also is in the mix with one year remaining on his deal.
Allen took a little while to adjust early last season but once he did it was clear that he is a good player and will get better. He is smart with his physical play and his presence allows Bouwmeester some offensive freedom. The two compliment each other well. With the defense set the Panthers can look to the goalie position and adding some players up front either in trades or free agency. Florida has multiple picks in the first two rounds and could even deal a couple of those to improve the roster. Needless to say, with the draft upcoming Friday the 22nd in Columbus, free agency starting at midnight on July 1st and players like Stephen Weiss
and Nathan Horton restricted free agents negotiating with the team, the next four weeks or so will be crucial and fun to watch.
The positive is the club will not undergo a major overhaul but rather will add a few players to the current stable. The commitment to this group of players is evident and major changes will not be forthcoming. Here is a breakdown of some current key players status:
Bouwmeester...One year left and likely to be signed long term by this time next year
Van Ryn...Three years
Horton and Weiss...Panthers property with both likely to sign long term deals in the near future
You can also factor in two or three free agent forwards.
Oh, and one last key figure...
Goldstein...hoping to do a lifetime deal with the organization soon!!! He will not take up too much cap space!