SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers are going to start the 2019-20 season with higher expectations than the team has had at any time during this millennium.
A busy offseason that began with the hiring of Joel Quenneville, the head coach with the second-most NHL wins of all time, has now seen the Panthers fill their biggest roster needs, starting in goal.
Free agent Sergei Bobrovsky, by far the most coveted goaltender to hit the open market in several years, has agreed to sign with the Panthers.
The deal runs for 7 years and is worth $70 million, with an average annual value (AAV) of $10 million per season.
As far as goalies go, only Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens has a higher AAV, at $10.5 million.
Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner with Columbus, gives Florida the kind of dominant presence in goal they have lacked since Roberto Luongo’s first stint with the club.
“Sergei is an elite starting goaltender who has consistently proven to be one of the best in the NHL,” said Panthers general manager Dale Tallon. “Adding a world class goalie with Sergei’s abilities and experience will give us a solid foundation in net and the confidence to win every night as we look towards this next era of Panthers hockey in South Florida.”
Florida was also in on star left winger Artemi Panarin, but he ultimately chose to sign a 7-year deal worth $81.5 million with the New York Rangers. That’s an AAV of $11.6 million, making him one of the highest paid players in the league.
While Florida was trying to pull off the Hail Mary and sign both Bobrovsky and Panarin, the team had several needs to fill, with the most urgent coming in goal.
With that position filled, Tallon was able to shift his sights to other areas that he wanted to upgrade.
It’s been known that the Panthers coveted a right-shooting defenseman that could play in the top four, and they got their man in Anton Stralman.
The veteran defenseman fits Florida’s needs in that he can gobble up 20+ minutes a game, he moves the puck well and rarely turns it over.
“Anton is a veteran two-way defenseman who plays solid hockey and brings a wealth of experience and leadership to our lineup,” said Tallon. “His knowledge of the game and winning mentality will be a valuable asset for our young defensemen.”
Stralman signed a 3-year deal worth $16.5 million, carrying an AAV of $5.5M.
He’ll turn 33 before the season beings.
Florida also added a pair of forwards in Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari.
Connolly is a 27-year-old Stanley Cup winner coming off a career year in which he put up 46 points (22-24-46) with the Washington Capitals.
He was signed to a 4-year deal, $13 million deal with a $3.25M AAV.
“Brett is a Stanley Cup Champion who knows what it takes to win in this league,” said Tallon. “He brings a dimension of both size and skill to our young forward group and will strengthen our depth.”
After a rough start to his career, Connolly, a former 6th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, has developed into a solid two-way player that can provide consistent secondary scoring in a bottom-six role.
As for Acciari, he provides a gritty spark that will come in handy with the younger players he’s likely to be plugged in with on Florida’s fourth line. He also helps out on the penalty kill.
“Noel is a hard-nosed, reliable, two-way forward who plays the game with an edge,” said Tallon. “He possesses great character, playoff experience and adds a consistent physical presence to our lineup. We are thrilled to have agreed to terms with Noel and know that he makes our club deeper and harder to play against.”
The 27-year-old Acciari, signed to a 3-year deal worth $5 million ($1.67 AAV), led the Boston Bruins in hits each of the last two years.