2018 Florida Panthers Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
I felt worse for the Florida Panthers than any team last year. They have been working to get things on track for so long and have a lot to like on the squad. But when the dust settled last year their 96 points was a single point short of the postseason. It would have been enough in the West. To come so close would have been incredibly frustrating for a team that has made the playoffs only twice since 2000 no matter what, but the squad had gone an incredible 25-8-2 in their last 35 games, so they were tied with Winnipeg as the best team in the league over that time -- and they still had to hit the golf course. Now we get to see if the team can build on that momentum and get hot early - so they don't need to close strong to give themselves a chance, or if they are going to play like they did in the first half of the season last year again this year.
Florida Panthers Offseason Moves
The starting point for us is probably my favorite trade of the offseason. The Senators had to trade Mike Hoffman in a hurry after his fiancée was embroiled in a bizarre, and pretty awful, cyber bullying scandal against Erik Karlsson's wife. Ottawa, perhaps the worst team ever at trading, sent him to San Jose for peanuts. Minutes later, the Sharks flipped him to Florida for a much higher return. Awesome. Hoffman obviously has baggage, but the winger is only 28 and he has had at least 56 points the last three years. He could be a strong fit in the top six.
Besides that, things were very quiet. They lost a few free agents, but no one even remotely significant. They made one interesting free agent play. Bogdan Kiselevich was a first-team all-star in the KHL last year and a member of the gold medal winning Russian Olympic team. He is 28 and was undrafted, so Florida has brought him in on a one-year deal. There is room in the top four if he can fill it. Interesting experiment. Beyond that, the most significant guys they added - and I use the word significant very loosely - were depth goalie Michael Hutchinson from Winnipeg and forward Troy Brouwer, who was bought out by Calgary. I have watched a lot of Brouwer the last two years and don't feel jealous of the signing at all. He has been awful.
The team had very little work to do on the contract front, either. That will come soon enough, but they got a reprieve this season.
The team took Russian forward Grigori Denisenko with the 15th pick in the
draft. They aren't in desperate need up front, so while he'll be given a
chance to break through and make the team, it is more likely that he will
return to the KHL this season. Last year's first-rounder, forward Owen
Tippett, made the team out of camp last year but was sent back to junior
after seven games where he was excellent. He should make the team this
year. So should 2016 first-rounder Henrik Bergstrom, who was a Hobey Baker
finalist at Denver last year. He has a chance to be really good.
Florida Panthers NHL Outlook
Every player that was important to this team last year is back. They are young and talented. The goaltending can be solid. The defense is sound. Offensively, things run deep, and Hoffman adds another top six threat. Bob Boughner is an excellent coach and a great fit for the team. This is a team that is moving in the right direction. They obviously could fall off the track - the first half of last season was a long way from remarkable. But as long as they learned from that, and they stay healthy, there is upside here. Not Stanley Cup upside, but a good step forward.
Florida Panthers Schedule
This team has very long homestands of seven and eight games this year. You don't see that often - most teams don't even have one that long. Even stranger, the season-long eight-game homestand is immediately preceded by a season-long six-game road trip.
Florida Panthers NHL Futures Odds
At +4000 to win the Stanley Cup at Bovada , the Panthers are tied with two playoff teams from last year - New Jersey and Colorado - and behind 19 other teams. Florida had 96 points last year, missing the playoffs by a single point, and their season point total is set at 94.5 this year. Aleksander Barkov is a +7500 long shot to win the Hart Trophy as MVP.
2018-19 Florida Panthers Predictions
You heard it here - this team is going to break the 100-point barrier this year. I don't even feel that nervous about saying that. The "over" on the season points total is one of the better values on the board. This is going to be a playoff team again.
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