Florida Panthers: Seven Forwards the Cats Could Target this Summer by Jonathan Reichenberger

MacKenzie Weegar’s one-year contract has officially come to an end, forcing the Florida Panthers to make a decision on the current RFA.

The 24-year-old, right-handed defenseman, took part in his first-full season as a member of the Florida Panthers. During the 2017-18 campaign, Weegar took part in exactly 60 games, combining for 2G, 6A, and 8 points all together. He also held respectable figures in departments like CF% (Corsi For Percentage) (51.6%), Rel CF% (Relative Corsi for Percentage) (3.7%), as well as his oZS% (Offensive Zone Start Percentage) (56.3%).

However, despite what the stats suggest, the former 7th-round draft pick looked comfortable on the ice and in his role, playing a key part on the Panthers’ bottom pair. While the notable candidate for the third pair on the right side is Alex Petrovic, Weegar managed to take his spot throughout the year, gaining trust among the coaching staff.

With the majority of Petrovic’s struggles occurring through the first half of the season, Weegar was next in line to show what he could bring, and needless to say, he impressed right off the bat. In his first game of his rookie year, Weegar recorded his first career NHL goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 20th.

MacKenzie wound up to take a slap-shot, immediately faking it in the heat of the moment and sending helpless Patric Hornqvist down to his knees, followed by an absolute snipe to cap off his first career NHL goal:

What’s impressive is the patience that Weegar had on this play. Many defensemen would’ve thrown the puck on net from an odd angle initially, but MacKenzie had others plans by faking a slap-shot and moving over slightly, ensuring that he’d upgrade to better real-estate (room) over at the point to work with. In result, his decision was 100% on this play, ultimately leading in a goal for the Cats.

The underline question regarding the Canadian native is whether or not the Panthers should re-sign the 24-year-old. The answer to that would be an absolute ‘yes,’ the Panthers should definitely retain his services by extending his contract. Many fans wouldn’t argue otherwise, and it’s clear that based on the year Weegar had, that he’s certainly worthy of an extension of some sorts. But how much and for how long?

Considering Weegar is nothing more than a solid, bottom pairing defenseman, the Panthers could re-sign him cheap, on a short-term deal. Coming off a one-year, $675k deal, the Cats could either extend him for another season, or could offer him a two-year bridge. An offer in the field of one-year, $800K annually or two-years at $750K annually, should do the trick in keeping Weegar in a Cats uniform.

Taking into account the possibility of Alex Petrovic walking this summer, the Panthers know very well that they have a suitable replacement in MacKenzie Weegar, and certainly wouldn’t want to lose both in the same summer (not that it’s going to happen). Ideally, a deal should get done between both parties, but if push comes to shove, a deal can always be settled through arbitration, seeing that MacKenzie is arbitration eligible.

But apart from what the worst can be, a deal to re-sign MacKenzie Weegar will undoubtedly happen throughout the summer, considering that Tallon is big on youth, and the presence that Weegar offers at the back on the third pairing.

In closing, while it’s definitely a no brainer to retain the services of MacKenzie Weegar, the Cats will legitimately rely upon the right-handed dman throughout the course of the 2018-19 campaign. With Petro’s future in Sunrise looking iffy, the time for Weegar to take over is now, and what better way to do so than by taking over the reigns of the bottom pair! 


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