2022-23 NHL season preview: Tkachuk's arrival might put the Florida Panthers over the top
For the previous entry in this series of 2022-23 season previews where I cover the Edmonton Oilers, click here.
Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (photo courtesy of NHL.com)
While to Florida Panthers might have lost Jonathan Huberdeau in a trade with the Calgary Flames, most argue that Florida is better off with the younger Matt Tkachuk. The 24-year old Tkachuk is certainly a superstar in this league, and is sure to continue to dominate the NHL for years to come. After finishing last season with 104 points on 42 goals and 62 assists, also scoring 10 points on 4 goals and 6 assists in the playoffs, the reigning President's Trophy Winning Florida Panthers are hoping that Tkachuk is what they need to put them over the top and bring them to a Stanley Cup, after being swept by their intrastate rival Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs last year.
Florida also brought in forwards Colin White, Nick Cousins, and Rudolfs Balcers all via free-agency, while bolstering their defensive depth by signing veteran Marc Staal to a 1-year deal. Florida also hired new head coach, Paul Maurice.
Along with the aforementioned departure of Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar was also included in the trade for Tkachuk. Another notable exit for the Florida Panthers was when Claude Giroux signed a 3-year deal to go home and play for the Ottawa Senators.
The Florida Panthers are absolutely stacked heading into the 2022-23 season. Captain Aleksander Barkov, Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair (who suffered an Achilles injury but is expected to return at about the halfway mark of the season) Patric Hornqvist, Sam Reinhart, Carter Verhaeghe, Aaron Ekblad, Gustav Forsling, and goalie duo of Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight. Those are a lot of big names, some more impactful than others, but all of them grinders and contributors in their own right.
Like I already mentioned above, the Panthers won the 2021-22 President's Trophy, awarded to the best team in the NHL at the end of the regular season. Adding Matt Tkachuk to a President's Trophy winning roster? This is going to be a dangerous team, and a major force in the Eastern Conference this season.