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Pundits Pick Panthers to Return to Postseason in 2019-20

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop /

"I think the Florida Panthers are a playoff team."

That's what former NHL forward and current NHL Network analyst Alex Tanguay said after the Panthers finished their shopping spree on the opening day of free agency, lauding the team for its acquisitions of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, defenseman Anton Stralman and forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari.

"When I look at what Dale Tallon did, first the hiring of Joel Quenneville, from there we thought there was a sense of excitement, rejuvenation in what the Panthers could do," Tanguay told the Miami Herald.

In the nearly two weeks that have passed since that big free agency splash, the Panthers have continued to garner even more praise from some of the largest media outlets and pundits from around the league.

By hiring a coach like Quenneville, who had previously piloted the Chicago Blackhawks' trio of Stanley Cups, and adding free agents like Bobrovsky to an already talented core that features a pair of 90-point players in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, experts believe the team is destined for success.

How far will these new acquisitions take them? Well, the playoffs sound nice.

Just like the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars did last season, both NBC Sports and The Hockey News recently picked the Panthers as one of the clubs that they think will qualify for the postseason in 2019-20 after watching from the sidelines the year before.

Joey Alfieri from NBC Sports pegged the Panthers as the No. 1 team most-likely to make that jump.

"The Panthers made a couple of significant acquisitions in free agency this summer, as they added franchise netminder Sergei Bobrovsky and winger Brett Connolly. Signing Bobrovsky was huge because it addressed the team's biggest need," Alfieri wrote. "Roberto Luongo couldn't stay healthy anymore and James Reimer simply wasn't getting the job done. The Panthers also have several offensive weapons at their disposal, including Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Evgenii Dadonov, Mike Hoffman and Vincent Trocheck. They could make a lot of noise in 2019-20."

Matt Larkin of The Hockey News, meanwhile, thinks Florida will capture at least a wild card spot.

"No team in the division has made as many augmentations as the Panthers," Larkin wrote. "Did I mention they hired Joel Quenneville as coach, too? Something tells me 'Q,' a three-time Cup champ who ranks second all-time in wins, can work with a core of Bobrovsky, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Mike Hoffman, Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle and Michael Matheson. Bet on the Panthers returning to the post-season."

With all this excitement brewing, there's really only one thing left to say.

Is it October yet?

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