Anthony Duclair is betting on himself, choosing to sign with Panthers for just $1.7M

Duclair answered questions after signing one-year deal with Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. – If anybody is confident in what Anthony Duclair can bring to the table, it’s his agent…Anthony Duclair.

The 25-year-old decided to represent himself this offseason following what many would consider the best year of his young career.

In 66 games with the Ottawa Senators during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 campaign, Duclair logged a career-best 0.6 points per game, a vast improvement on the .44 point-per-game average from the season before.

Considering the apparent upward trajectory his performance was projecting, Duclair, a restricted free agent when the offseason began, was surprised when he was not qualified by the Senators back in October.

Spanning parts of two seasons in Ottawa, Duclair appeared to flourish despite the lack of talent around him. Over 87 games with the Sens he picked up 54 points, including a team-leading 23 goals during the Covid-shortened 19-20 season.

The knock on Duclair throughout his career has been inconsistency, and he didn’t help his cause in that regard in Ottawa. Of those 23 goals last season, 14 of them came during a 17-game stretch in November and December.

While the streaky nature definitely raises an eyebrow, the talent it takes to score that many goals in that few amount of games simply cannot be ignored.

“I felt like last year I took a huge step in my development,” Duclair said Saturday. “I’m still a growing player, I still have lots to learn and I’m just ready for the new challenges that are going to be coming my way. I just want to build off what I did last year and continue growing, and just continue to be myself.”

Despite the overall success with the Sens, Ottawa’s reported contract offer wasn’t close to what Duclair felt he was worth (multiple sources have indicated that he turned down a three-year deal with a $4.25 AAV), so the team decided to cut him loose rather than risk an unfavorable ruling in arbitration.

Fast forward a couple months and Duclair, still acting as his own agent, made the decision to bet on himself this season instead of taking a term deal for less than he felt he deserved.

The RFA-turned-UFA was one of the top scoring forwards available on the open market, and of the options presented to him over the past two months, Duclair believes the best place for him to take the next step in his career and maximize his value is with the Florida Panthers, signing a one-year deal worth $1.7 million.

“Being in uncertain times, [with an] unusual offseason, and having time to really think and join an organization where I think is going to be the best fit for me, [it] was obviously a decision I took my time doing,” Duclair said. “I just wanted to make sure that I’m going to a situation where I can have the opportunity to showcase what I can do, and I just felt like Florida was the right fit for me.”

On Saturday afternoon Duclair answered questions from the media via Zoom during his Panthers introductory press conference, and here is what he had to say:

Was Bill Zito and the Florida Panthers a team you spoke to from the start of free agency?

“[Zito was] probably the first GM I actually talked to. As soon as the first day of free agency hit, we contacted each other. We had a really good talk. I felt really confident about Bill’s vision and Bill’s mindset and how he wants to build this team. I obviously know him from the Columbus days and we still have that relationship and, like I said, we had numerous conversations, probably the most conversations I had with any GM, and just felt good vibes from the beginning. I’m just happy to join Bill Zito’s team and the team in Florida.”

New Florida Panthers winger Anthony Duclair speaks to the media on a Zoom call. (Florida Panthers)

Were you surprised with how things ended in Ottawa, and what was it like representing yourself during the offseason?

“I was to be honest surprised I didn’t get qualified by Ottawa. I didn’t see that coming. But at the same time, I truly respect Pierre Dorion and the Senators organization’s decision to let me go. They felt like it was best for them to move on. For myself, representing myself on the open market I think was a great experience. The state of my career right now, where I’ve been moved around a bunch, I think it was important for me to contact GM’s and let them know where I am in the state of my career right now and tell them my story, and just have the opportunity to chat with a couple of them. I know that a couple of them told me that they respected the move, they understood the move. It was a great experience and in the future I’d love to learn the business side of the game. I think it’s a Covid offseason, it’s unusual times, but at the same time I had fun with it. Having the opportunity to speak to all these GM’s and tell my story was great for me and it’s only going to help me become a better player and a better person in the future.”

Are you looking forward to playing with guys like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov?

“I had lots of time to dissect all the lineups in the League just to see where I could fit. Obviously these type of guys [in Florida] are pretty eye popping and I would love to play with some of these guys and learn from these guys. Even if I’m not playing [on a line] with them, just being around talent like that every day at practice and seeing them work is definitely going to be beneficial for me. Whoever coach Q puts me out there with, I’ll try to do my best to make it work. It’s awesome to go to the team where actually I know a couple of guys from previous teams I’ve played on and I’m not just going to a new team and don’t know anybody, so it’s going to be a lot of familiarity and I’m really excited to just be around the type of talent that the Panthers have.”

Since Ottawa didn’t qualify for the bubble playoffs, you haven’t played a real game since March. How have you been preparing for the new season?

“It’s been a while, probably the longest stint I’ve ever had in my life not playing an actual game. I’ve just been working out back home in Montreal, been skating and trying to do the best I can to stay ready. Then I decided to go to Arizona and train and skate with some of the guys here and up the tempo a little bit. Obviously as soon as training camp starts it’s going to be a whole different ballgame. Just the excitement of the season starting, I think all the guys are going to be ready to go for sure.”

Have you spoken to any of your new Panthers teammates?

“A couple guys reached out, a couple guys I’ve played with in the past. I’m going to a team where I’m pretty familiar with a lot of guys and that’s going to be great. Just looking at the lineup, it’s obviously a very talented lineup, a lot of depth in the forward group and in the defensive core, and obviously an A-class goalie in Bob. A lot of great young prospects coming up, and a lot of prospects in the World Junior tournament that we’re going to get to see firsthand, so I’m very excited. Guys like Huberdeau that I know, I played against in junior and got to play with him a little bit at the All-Star game last year. Just seeing all the skill level and the talent that’s coming up in this forward group was obviously very attractive and one of the big reasons why I decided to come sign in Florida. I’m excited to honestly play with anybody at any given moment and I’m going to try to do my best to create instant chemistry with whoever Coach Q puts me out there with.”

About the Author:

David Dwork joined the WPLG Local 10 News team in August 2019. Born and raised in Miami-Dade County, David has covered South Florida sports since 2007.