Panthers hope Hornqvists Cup pedigree helps power next step

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After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2020-21 regular season, which is targeted to start Jan. 1. Today, the Florida Panthers:

The Florida Panthers made significant changes on and off the ice with hopes of taking the next step toward becoming a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Forward Patric Hornqvist was acquired in a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Mike Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour on Sept. 24, three weeks after the Panthers hired Bill Zito to replace Dale Tallon as general manager Sept. 2.

Hornqvist, who won the Cup with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017, has scored 480 points (238 goals, 242 assists) in 770 regular-season games with the Penguins and Nashville Predators, and 46 points (25 goals, 21 assists) in 90 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

Hornqvist will be asked to help replace the production of forwards Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. Hoffman, an unrestricted free agent, led Florida with 29 goals last season, including 11 on the power play, and three goals in a four-game loss to the New York Islanders in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Dadonov, who was fourth on the Panthers with 47 points (25 goals, 22 assists), signed as a free agent with the Ottawa Senators.

“I’m super excited for this opportunity,” Hornqvist said. “I think they have a great group of young core players. [Center Aleksander] Barkov is probably the most underrated player in the League, and I’m super excited to play with him and with the coach (Joel Quenneville) we have too; he knows what we need to win, and I think that’s the reason they want me there too.”

The Panthers also added forward Carter Verhaeghe, who won the Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, and defenseman Radko Gudas, who will provide a physical presence.

“I know that the players that we’ve added are professionals,” Zito said Oct. 9, “and I know that to a man that the players that we’ve added care about winning and they’re all character people.”

Here is what the Panthers look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Patric Hornqvist, F: He scored 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 52 games last season and two points (one goal, one assist) in four postseason games. The 33-year-old has three seasons left on a five-year contract he signed with the Penguins on Feb. 27, 2018. … Alexander Wennberg, F: The 26-year-old agreed to a one-year contract Oct. 9, the day after the Columbus Blue Jackets bought out his contract. Wennberg scored 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 57 games and five points (three goals, two assists) in 10 postseason games. … Radko Gudas, D: The 30-year-old agreed to a three-year contract Oct. 9. He scored 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 63 games for the Washington Capitals last season, and his 164 hits were 12th among NHL defensemen. … Carter Verhaeghe, F: The 25-year-old agreed to a two-year contract Oct. 9. He scored 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in 52 games and had two assists in eight postseason games. … Vinnie Hinostroza, F: The 26-year-old agreed to a one-year contract Oct. 9 after he scored 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 68 games and had two assists in seven postseason games for the Arizona Coyotes last season.

Video: Patric Hornqvist Traded to the Florida Panthers

 

Key departures

Mike Hoffman, F: Remains unsigned. He has scored at least 22 goals in each of the past six seasons and has scored 359 points (172 goals, 187 assists) in 493 games for the Panthers and Senators. … Evgenii Dadonov, F: Signed a three-year contract with Ottawa on Oct. 15. He has scored at least 25 goals in each of the past three seasons. … Mike Matheson, D: Scored 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 59 games last season. He played 296 games for Florida the past four seasons. … Brian Boyle, F: Remains an unrestricted free agent. He scored 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 39 games last season, his first with the Panthers, and one goal in four postseason games.

 

On the cusp

Owen Tippett, F: The 21-year-old scored 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) in 46 games for Springfield of the American Hockey League last season. He was the No. 10 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. … Henrik Borgstrom, F: The 23-year-old scored 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 49 games for Springfield. He was the No. 23 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

 

What they still need

A top-pair defenseman. Gudas will help, but the Panthers still lack someone who can contribute at each end of the ice and play at least 20 minutes per game alongside Aaron Ekblad.

Video: ANA@FLA: Ekblad roofs shot to complete rally in OT

 

Fantasy focus

Hornqvist missed at least 12 games in each of the past four seasons for the Penguins but always brings a high fantasy floor, covering four of the six standard categories (goals, power-play points, shots on goal, hits) when healthy. After the departure of Dadonov, who scored 17 PPP in each of the past two seasons, there’s a spot on the top line and/or first power play, where Hornqvist’s net-front presence can give an already strong Panthers power play (21.3 percent, T-10th in NHL) a new dimension. — Pete Jensen

 

Projected lineup

Jonathan HuberdeauAleksander Barkov — Patric Hornqvist

Frank Vatrano — Alexander Wennberg — Owen Tippett

Grigori Denisenko — Carter Verhaeghe — Brett Connolly

Aleksi SaarelaNoel Acciari — Vinnie Hinostroza

MacKenzie Weegar — Aaron Ekblad

Keith YandleAnton Stralman

Markus Nutivaara — Radko Gudas 

Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger

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