About a month before the season, the Florida Panthers had done about as little as possible to improve their team that finished at or near the bottom of the league in every category. They acquired Scott Gomez and that was about it, meaning that the goal was simply to get healthy and rely on younger guys.
In the weeks and days that led up to training camp, though, the Panthers went out and surveyed the scrap heap, making multiple additions in inviting some veterans to training camp. One of the veterans that was able to latch on after receiving an invite was that of defenseman Tom Gilbert.
Gilbert has gotten something of a raw deal throughout his career. He’s never reached the level that has been expected of him, but he hasn’t necessarily been bad. Nonetheless, he was bought out of his contract with the Minnesota Wild over the summer, something that may not have happened if Dany Heatley had been healthy enough for a buyout.
Regardless, Gilbert went through the summer without a deal from any team, despite the fact that there are multiple teams around the league that could have used help on the defensive end. The Panthers gave him a professional tryout during training camp, and Gilbert hasn’t looked back yet.
Not only has Gilbert managed to find a place with the Panthers, he’s managed to do so on their top defensive pairing. He’s been logging minutes next to Brian Campbell on the no. 1 defensive unit. He has a pair of assists and a plus-1 rating for the season, while averaging almost 22 minutes of ice time per game, second only to Campbell.
While Gilbert isn’t going to be enough to put this Panthers team over the top as a contender, it’s certainly a good story. In the event that the Cats aren’t anywhere near contention, he’s a potential trade chip for them at the deadline. This is a situation that is and should continue to be beneficial for all involved.