Dynasty Hockey League

Florida Expansion Draft Full of Surprises

Florida Expansion Draft Full of Surprises
Sunrise, Florida

When the league decided to expand into Florida (again), many GMs likely expected a rebuilding team to be iced. In fact, many of the early trades of the Panthers were pointing to that direction. And it would be smart in expansion to not push too hard too quickly so a “rebuilding” quality team would likely make sense. But it appears that something must’ve changed prior to the expansion draft. First lets review some of the trades that were made leading up to the draft.

Florida made the following expansion draft related trades:

  • San Jose: Agreement to select Tobias Rieder, in return Florida receives $5M and prospect Noah Gregor
  • Anaheim: Agreement to protect Joonas Korpisalo, in return Florida receives $2M and prospect Tristan Jarry
  • Montreal: Agreement to select Jake Dotchin, in return Florida receives Vancouver Y25 1st round pick
  • Toronto: Agreement to select Reilly Smith along with Toronto using Option C, in return Florida receives Chicago Y25 1st round pick (top 10 protected, if pick is not transferred, Florida will receive the lower of the SJ/BOS Y25 1st round pick as well as Toronto’s Y26 1st round pick)
  • Ottawa: Agreement to select Jimmy Vesey, in return Florida receives prospect Lucas Johansen
  • St. Louis: Agreement to select Richard Panik, in return Florida receives C Johan Larsson and prospects Ryan Lindgren and Jayce Hawryluk
  • Tampa: Agreement to select Zach Bogosian, in return Florida receives D Brayden McNabb and LW Matt Beleskey (with 1.5M going to TB)
  • Detroit: Agreement to select Drake Caggiula, in return Florida receives prospect Daniel O’Regan
  • Pittsburgh: Agreement to select Carl Hagelin, in return Florida receives RW Matt Nieto and Y26 COL 2nd

From the looks of these deals, it seemed pretty obvious that the Panthers would be contending for a top 5 pick in the Y26 draft. And then an additional deal involving LA that wasn’t specifically a draft related deal added to that idea ($750K in cash for G Andrew Hammond and the UFA rights to Clayton Stoner and Michael Haley). It would appear that much of the focus for the Panthers would be on building via the entry draft. In fact, they moved up from that Vancouver pick acquired in the deal with Montreal to Ottawa’s pick for 4M in cash.

GM Basterd explains what happened, “I initially had every intention of being a cap floor team, planning to build via the draft and the young prospects I was able to acquire via trade. But there was a point where I started looking at things with some teams and their possible protection lists. I saw a couple of key players that would absolutely be building blocks while I awaited the prospects in the pool to develop. So I said to myself, ‘WTF, lets just fucking go for it and be competitive right away! If the Vegas team in the NHL can do it, why can’t I?'”

Even with the initial selections being announced, it may not have seemed to be anything changed yet. Guys like Libor Hajek (ANA), Hudson Elyniuk (BUF), Igor Shesterkin (NAS) and Nick Merkley (WSH) were all prospects that will look good eventually but didn’t point to any change of plans either. All of those guys should play a future part in the Panthers roster as they likely will be top 10 prospects for them. With that kind of prospect depth, in combination with the 1st round picks in this draft, the long term situation in Florida should look very good and very deep.

And then the selections started to see a small change to the type of players going to Florida. The selection of Jordie Benn (MIN) probably was the start of that but it wasn’t widely known that there was already a trade in place to move him. Completing that deal, Florida moves the extra 2nd round pick (#60) in Y25 along with Benn to Washington for RW Cam Atkinson. Atkinson will provide some nice secondary scoring for any roster and his cap hit will be pretty affordable. Some may question this move too with how he may re-rate after this season but it seems like Basterd believes in him as he’ll re-sign him for 4 yrs (the cap hit only increases by 50K for him).

After that, the additions on defense of Wideman (WPG) and Hamhuis (CAR) and at center in Eakin (CHI) and Little (NYR) didn’t quite scream anything changed but it definitely looked odd to some. HabsGM pointed out that the team was “lean down the middle” so taking Eakin and Little would seem to address that. And bluesgm commented that he “thought for sure you would (go) with Jenner there” with the selection from Carolina. But Hamhuis will be a good defensive d-man to have in the lineup and if the plan seems to not work, he’ll be an easy player to move. “Little is a guy that always seems underrated that he could actually put together a nice season for us in a top line role,” Basterd says.

The remaining selections would have likely shocked many GMs in the league and will be exciting to see the reactions. Florida decided to build from the net out and selected Devan Dubnyk’s UFA rights from NJ. With the cash that was accumulated via expansion and trades, Florida is hoping to re-sign Dubnyk using their UFA loyalty option. Dubnyk should be a valuable asset either way and while there were some nice assets in Jersey, it appears that the value of Dubnyk outweighed some young guys.

Florida then went on to select the UFA rights of d-man Ryan Suter from Colorado. Suter will be a nice top pairing d-man for any team and seems to be an underrated guy at times. The Panthers will hope to re-sign him as well with the cash pile they are sitting on. “Colorado didn’t really leave me a ton of valuable assets to pick from so this made a lot of sense to me and would love to bring Suter back.” The top pairing for the Panthers are both UFA as they also selected Dion Phaneuf from Boston so it will depend on what the bidding looks like as they may not be able to keep both.

Then the Panthers went on to select veterans in winger Marian Hossa (DAL) and d-man Nick Holden. Hossa is retiring at the end of this season so this would seem like a very strange move. But not to GM Basterd, “Look there are very few guys like Hossa that play a strong 2-way game and have an affordable cap hit too. If for some reason this team doesn’t gell the way I hope, I figure there will be teams interested in him via trade.” Holden may cause some to also question this move as he’s also a UFA-to-be on the last yr of his contract so the Panthers could end up with nothing if he leaves at the end of the year. “I had the same thought process with Holden as with Hossa. He’s got an affordable contract with good all around ratings and he’ll fill a top 4 role on my roster. But if it doesn’t work, I’m sure there will be interest in him if traded.”

The projected lineup heading into Y25 for the Florida Panthers appears to be the following (prior to UFA)

 Reilly Smith (73)  Bryan Little (72)  Marian Hossa (75)
 Richard Panik (72) Chris Tierney (67)  Cam Atkinson (70)
 Benoit Pouliot (66) Cody Eakin (67) Tobias Rieder (68)
 Carl Hagelin (67)  Johan Larsson (65)  Matt Nieto (66)
  Ryan Suter (77) Dion Phaneuf (75)
 Nick Holden (71) Dennis Wideman (70)
 Dan Hamhuis (70) Zach Bogosian (70)
Devan Dubnyk (79)
Andrew Hammond (65)

There is still work to be done with that lineup and it could all fall apart during the UFA phase of the offseason. But this could be a team that surprises everyone and sneaks into the playoffs in the competitive Eastern Conference. Surprises seem to be the most common theme when it comes to the Panthers so no one should be sleeping on this team at all.  The full list of the expansion selections are available HERE.

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