SUNRISE, Fla. – A busy offseason for the Florida Panthers continued on Thursday when the team agreed to terms with one of the top free agent forwards on the open market.
Florida signed speedy winger Anthony Duclair to a one-year deal, adding some scoring pop to the Panthers forward ranks.
The contract is reportedly worth $1.7 million, which sure seems like a bargain for a guy who has averaged 21 goals over the past two seasons.
At just 25 years old, Duclair is still an ascending talent. He’s coming off his first NHL All-Star selection last season, a year in which he logged career highs in goals (23) and assists (17) despite playing in just 66 games.
“Anthony is a dynamic and highly skilled player who is capable of being a dependable offensive contributor for our team” said Panthers General Manager Bill Zito in a statement released by the team. “He possesses tremendous speed and goal scoring ability and earned an opportunity to be named an NHL All-Star last season. We’re excited to welcome Anthony and look forward to what he can add to our team.”
Zito has some familiarity with Duclair from their time together in Columbus. The Blue Jackets signed Duclair during the summer of 2018 to a prove-it deal, and he responded by flashing the skills he’s continued developing, but on a much more consistent basis.
At the 2018-19 trade deadline, Zito and the Jackets flipped Duclair and his rising stock to Ottawa for soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Ryan Dzingel as Columbus loaded up on short-term stars (they also acquired Matt Duchene on an expiring deal) for what they hoped would be a long playoff run.
Columbus came up short during the postseason (though they did shock the hockey world by sweeping top-seeded Tampa Bay) but Duclair’s game continued to grow during his time with the Senators. He ended up with 54 points (31-23-54) in 87 games over parts of two seasons with Ottawa while playing valuable minutes on both the power play and penalty kill.
He comes to a Florida team that will feature several new faces on the forward lines, many of whom were added by Zito on very low-risk, one or two-year deals.
Carter Verhaeghe signed a two-year contract with Florida worth $2 million, Alex Wennberg signed a $2.25 million deal for one season, Ryan Lomberg was given a two-year deal worth $1.45 million and Vinnie Hinostroza was added for one year at a cost of $1 million.
Duclair’s deal falls right in line with the aforementioned contracts, but he is a very different player than those who signed before him.
The majority of Zito’s additions are responsible, two-way players that add a varying degree of offense. Duclair, on the other hand, is known for his speed and scoring prowess but has not offered much in the realm of defensive play.
D-zone recognition, backchecking and overall care with the puck are areas that he will more than likely be asked to improve on while playing for Panthers Head Coach Joel Quenneville.
Overall, this is another savvy, sensible signing by Zito that came at a very reasonable price. It gives some needed balance to what should be a skilled but gritty team that (they hope) is not much fun to play against.