SUNRISE, Fla. – The Florida Panthers made what could end up being the team’s most substantial offseason addition on Monday, and they did it before the start of free agency and without having to make a trade.
Florida has signed 2020 first-round pick Anton Lundell to a three-year entry-level contract.
Lundell, who will turn 20 in early October, is expected to take part in the Panthers training camp later this summer and compete for a spot on the team’s Opening Night roster.
When asked about the skilled young centerman last week during his end-of-season media availability, Florida General Manager Bill Zito had a big smile on his face while saying if need be, he would personally escort Lundell to sunny South Florida in time for camp.
“Yeah, he’ll be here. There’s a plan. I’m going to go get him myself,” Zito laughed. “If you guys don’t know, he’s tearing up the World Championships. He’s a pretty good prospect.”
Indeed, Lundell was one of the best players at the IIHF World Championship that wrapped up over the weekend in Latvia.
He led Team Finland in scoring, logging seven points (4-3-7) in 10 games, while helping his squad to a silver medal.
The performance in Riga comes on the heels of an impressive season and career with HIFK in Liiga, the Finnish Elite League.
“Anton is a cerebral, skilled and dynamic young player who continuously established himself in Finland’s top league and played a pivotal role on Finland’s national teams at all levels,” Zito said in a statement released by the team Monday.
After working his way up the IFK youth ranks, playing for its U16, U18 and U20 teams, Lundell was promoted to the big club when he was just 17.
He played three seasons for HIFK, racking up 72 points (35-37-72) in 106 career games in Liiga.
This past season, after being drafted 12th overall by Florida in October, Lundell led IFK with 16 goals, finishing the year with 25 points (16-9-25) in 26 games while also wearing an ‘A’ on his sweater as an alternate captain.
“Anton’s maturity, compete level and sound two-way ability are exciting qualities to add to our organization,” Zito’s statement continued. “We are thrilled to have signed Anton and look forward to his future with the Florida Panthers for years to come.”
Lundell will be given every opportunity to succeed with the Panthers, and could very well end up as a middle-six center when next season arrives.
Should the young Finn pick up in South Florida where he’s left off with HIFK and at the World Championship, the Panthers depth down the middle would be a major strength. Led by captain Sasha Barkov, Florida’s centers would also include Lundell, Sam Bennett (who is a restricted free agent but expected to re-sign) and Noel Acciari.
There is also the possibility of Alex Wennberg being in the mix once again. He is an unrestricted free agent coming off an impressive season with Florida, and he proved to be a great fit in head coach Joel Quenneville’s systems.