NHL

From Barkov to Bob, how the Florida Panthers constructed their Stanley Cup winning roster

From Barkov to Bob, how the Florida Panthers constructed their Stanley Cup winning roster

Weaving the tapestry of a championship roster calls upon the alchemy of seeing talent, feeling chemistry and knowing how close you really are or aren’t. Panthers’ management built a team with the NHL’s best record, then did a little roster deconstruction and rebuilt a team to win the NHL’s biggest prize.

Here’s how the Panthers’ 2023-24 Stanley Cup roster was built.

2: Tobias Bjornfot, D. The Panthers claimed Bjornfot off waivers from Las Vegas on March 8, two months after Vegas claimed him from Los Angeles. He played one regular season game.

5: Aaron Ekblad, D. Drafted No. 1 overall in the 2014 NHL Draft and the NHL’s Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) the ensuing season, Ekblad’s the Panthers career leader in defenseman scoring and pairs with Gustav Forsling to match against opponents’ top lines.

7: Dmitri Kulikov, D. Kulikov’s career came full circle when the Panthers signed him as a free agent on July 1. After being the Panthers 2009 first-round draft pick, Kulikov spent his first seven seasons here before being traded to Buffalo in 2016.

8: Kyle Okposo, RW. Okposo was Buffalo’s captain when the Panthers traded for him on March 8, sending Calle Sjalin and a conditional 2024 draft pick to the Sabres. The 36-year-old does fourth-line duty with the Panthers.

9: Sam Bennett, C. The Panthers got Bennett, a big, physical center with the hands to make a slick feed or roof such a pass, on April 12, 2021 from Calgary along with a sixth-round 2022 draft pick for prospect Emil Heineman and a 2022 draft pick.

READ MORE: The Panthers win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup

10: Vladimir Tarasenko, RW. The Panthers got Tarasenko’s Stanley Cup-winning experience and occasionally still-lethal shot from Ottawa on March 6 for a 2025 third-round draft pick and a conditional 2024 draft pick.

12: Jonah Gadjovich, LW. After signing with the Panthers as a free agent on Oct. 16, Gadjovich dressed for 39 games this season.

13: Sam Reinhart, RW. The Panthers got Reinhart from Buffalo on July 24, 2021 for goalie prospect Devon Levi and a 1st-round 2022 draft pick. With the Panthers, Reinhart’s followed two 30-goal seasons with a 57-goal, 94-point season.

Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) shoots and scores as Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner defend during the first period of Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Amerant Bank Arena on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla.

15: Anton Lundell, C. The Panthers took Lundell in the first round, 12th overall, of the 2020 NHL Draft. The similarity in Lundell’s skill and two-way game occasionally gets him called “Baby Barkov,” a reference to his countryman.

16: Aleksander Barkov, C. The Panthers took Barkov No. 2 overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. The Panthers have been proven right — two Selke Trophies, franchise’s leading scorer, team captain, one of the game’s best all-around players — after taking some outright criticism for passing over big, mobile skilled defenseman Seth Jones.

17: Evan Rodrigues, RW. Signed as a free agent on July 2, Rodrigues can play on the second or third line and works on the second power play unit.

18: Steven Lorentz, LW. The Panthers got fourth-liner Lorentz and a fifth-round 2025 draft pick for Anthony Duclair on July 1.

19: Matthew Tkachuk, LW. After having the NHL’s best record in 2021-22, but losing in the second round, the Panthers wanted to add physicality and truculence for the playoffs without sacrificing offense. So, on July 22, 2022, they sent the franchise’s all-time leading scorer at the time, Jonathan Huberdeau; MacKenzie Weegar; Cole Schwindt; and a conditional 2025 first-round draft pick to Calgary for Tkachuk. Tkachuk brings attitude, thump to create a turnover and the skill to turn the turnover into a goal.

Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) takes a shot toward goal against the Boston Bruins in the first period of Game 1 of the second-round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday, May 6, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla.

21: Nick Cousins, C. Cousins signed with the Panthers as a free agent on July 13, 2022 and scored the series-ending overtime goal in the 2023 playoffs second-round series against Toronto.

23: Carter Verhaeghe, LW. The Panthers signed Verhaeghe as a free agent on Oct. 9, 2020 after he spent his first NHL season as a bottom six player for Tampa Bay’s 2020 Stanley Cup winner. In addition to 145 points in his last 157 regular seaosn games, Verhaeghe’s got 10 playoff game winners among a franchise record 25 playoff goals.

Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) shoots and scores as Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner defend during the first period of Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Amerant Bank Arena on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla.

24: Justin Sourdif, RW. The Panthers’ 2020 third-round NHL Draft pick got into three games this season.

25: Mackie Samoskevich, RW. The Panthers’ 2021 first-round NHL Draft pick dressed for seven games this season.

26: Uvis Balinskis, D. The free agent signed April 18, 2023 dressed for 26 regular season for the Panthers this season.

27: Eetu Luostarinen, LW. Luostarinen came to the Panthers with Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark and Chase Priskie on Feb. 24, 2020 as the Panthers sent Vincent Trocheck to Carolina. He’s found a place on the third line and the penalty kill.

28: Josh Mahura, D. After the Panthers grabbed Mahura off waivers from Anaheim on Oct. 10, 2022, he played all 103 regular season and playoff games in 2022-23. This season, Manura got into 30 games after offseason roster additions pushed him down the lineup.

41: Anthony Stolarz, G. The Pantehrs signed Stolarz as a free agent on July 1. Stolarz went 16-7 with a 2.03 goals against average and .925 save percentage as Bobrovsky’s backup.

42: Gustav Forsling, D. The Panthers claimed Forsling off waivers on Jan. 9, 2021 from Carolina, which couldn’t find room for him. He pairs with Aaron Ekblad, usually against opponent’s top lines, led Panthers defensemen in scoring this year while compiling a ridiculous +56 plus/minus rating. He’s continued both trends in the playoffs.

62: Brandon Montour, D. The Panthers got Montour from Buffalo on April 10, 2021 for a third-round 2021 draft pick. He’s found a home on the power play, getting 50 of his 106 points there over the last two seasons.

67: William Lockwood, RW. Signed as a free agent on July 2 after finishing the 2022-23 season unused by the Rangers, Lockwood dressed for 26 games with the Panthers this year.

72: Sergei Bobrovsky, G. The Panthers signed Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie) winner, as a free agent on July 1, 2019. Especially the last two playoff seasons, the 35-year-old “Bob” provides the Panthers with the security of elite goaltending.

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) works with center Aleksander Barkov (16) and defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) to block a shot by Edmonton Oilers left wing Zach Hyman (18) in the second period of Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals at the Amerant Bank Arena on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla.

77: Niko Mikkola, D. The Panthers signed the defensive defenseman as a free agent on July 1.

82: Kevin Stenlund, C. The Panthers signed Stenlund as a free agent on July 1 to improve their penalty killing unit.

91: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D. The Panthers signed Ekman-Larsson as a free agent on July 1. He gives the Panthers solid veteran depth on the third defense pair with Dmitri Kulikov.

94: Ryan Lomberg, LW. Lomberg signed with the Panthers as a free agent Oct. 9, 2020 and has been a fourth-line agitator since then.

Head coach Paul Maurice. Having the NHL’s best record, best offense and winning a playoff round for the first time in 26 years didn’t satisfy Panthers management after a second-round sweep loss to Tampa Bay. Andrew Brunette got dumped for Maurice, who transformed the Panthers into a heavy forechecking, pounding unit that erodes teams rather than strafes them.

General Manager Bill Zito. Panthers ownership jettisoned 10-year general manager Dale Tallon on Aug. 10, 2020 and hired Zito 23 days later. Only four players remain on the Panthers roster from that day: Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Sergei Bobrovesky and left wing Eetu Luostarinen.

Trading for Matthew Tkachuk, signing Carter Verhaeghe, claiming Gustav Forsling off waivers and hiring Paul Maurice are among Zito’s ace moves that turned the Panthers from a playoff team to a Stanley Cup winner. Zito’s also responsible for the hockey operations and scouting department advised on player acquisitions and helped with player development.

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