Almost immediately after Kris Versteeg and the Florida Panthers agreed to a new four-year contract last summer, you knew there were going to be critics. After all, $4.4 million a year cap hit seems like a lot for a guy who had bounced around a ton over the course of the previous seasons, and was not much more than a role player in each of his stops.
Which is why it should come as no surprise that as this miserable season nears its end for the Panthers, those critics are coming out again. Some are suggesting a buyout would be a favorable option for the Panthers, as Versteeg heads into the end of his first year of that four-year deal.
Only, Versteeg isn’t playing in these final weeks of the season. In fact, Versteeg hasn’t played since March 12th because of knee surgery. That surgery was just the latest in a season full of injuries for him. When he did play, he wasn’t particularly effective, with just four points and a minus-8 rating in 10 games.
That doesn’t mean that this Kris Versteeg contract has been a waste, by any means. In this season for the Panthers, it’s tough to criticize anything. They’ve dealt with injuries all over the roster, which has made it nearly impossible for them to find any sort of consistency.
Versteeg put together his best year as a pro last year. He finished with 54 points in 71 games, including a career best 23 goals. It was clear that he had found a permanent home after bouncing around to three different teams in one calendar year. If given an opportunity, Versteeg is a legitimate top six player. He proved that.
This year is essentially a throwaway for the entire franchise. They’ll come back in next year with a completely healthy roster, including Versteeg. If he comes out and struggles in a full season, especially if he’s healthy, then criticism of the deal might be warranted. But it hasn’t reached the point where that is quite necessary yet.