As the Florida Panthers head into the summer following a season that saw them finish at the bottom of the league standings, they have a pretty clear idea of where they need to upgrade. The largest needs may be on the back end, as the blue line needs to improve greatly if this team is going to get back into the postseason.
There isn’t exactly a wealth of defensemen out on the free agent market, but if the Panthers play these next couple weeks right, they could end up improving their defensive corps greatly. One of the best ways to do so would be to try and go out and sign free agent d-man Andrew Ference.
Ference isn’t a star on the blue line by any means, but he’d be a terrific fit for a team like the Panthers. The Panthers need not only that type of defensive presence in the lineup, but an intelligent veteran who would be a terrific voice in the locker room. Ference brings both to the mix.
Ference isn’t going to return to the Boston Bruins as his cap hit will likely become too high for a financial strained team like them to handle. He carried a $2.25 million cap hit and will definitely see a pretty nice raise, though we don’t know what type of contract he’s looking for at this point.
Regardless of the team that Ference ends up signing with, you know what you’re getting. A smart, defensive defenseman who will throw the body if he has to, will block shots, and contribute a bit on offense. For the Panthers, the added benefit is the leadership aspect that he brings, especially if they end up drafting Seth Jones at no. 2 overall.
In a thin free agent market, especially on the blue line, the Panthers need to make a point of it to go hard after Andrew Ference. He’s not a star, and not the type of guy who’s going to turn the blue line around by himself, but the benefits of signing him could be vast.