For the first time in years, the Florida Panthers are taking a run at the playoffs. And in preparation for a stretch drive to claim the eighth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, the Panthers did something they have rarely done in their 22-year history.
They went rental shopping.
Just prior to the deadline, the Cats snatched up the prototypical rental player, future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) March 2, 2015
Jagr may prove to be the missing piece needed to sneak the Panthers into the playoffs. Or maybe Florida will fall short and Jagr will simply move on next season.
Regardless of their fate, the acquisition of Jagr creates an opportunity to ask: Who are the greatest one-year Florida Panthers players of all-time? Which “rental” Cats made the biggest impression during their brief stay in Florida?
Let’s take a look at the best all-time one-year wonders in Florida Panthers history – one player at each position.
Being a Rental
The Florida Panthers have only clinched a playoff berth four times since their inaugural season in 1993-94. So, a look through their history of deadline day deals does not provide many player choices.
So, for our purposes, a “rental” is any player who played no more than one season for the Panthers. For that list, take a look here.
As with any all-time list, there are always a few players who are close to making the squad but, in the end, fall short. Players who almost made this one-year wonders lists are:
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 13, 2015
In his only season with the Florida Panthers, two-time Vezina winner Ed Belfour posted 27 wins, a 2.77 goals against average, and .902 save percentage. On a mostly-middling Panthers squad, Belfour was a bright spot.
At the end of his career, the former Columbus Blue Jackets captain and long-time Canadiens stalwart added stability during a tumultuous year in Florida. With few one-year options on the backend, this defensive defenseman almost made the one-year wonders squad.
With 1029 points in 1316 games, Kovalev is likely the most prolific NHLer ever to suit up for the Panthers. That’s almost enough to make the Florida Panthers all-time one year wonders lineup. However, Kovalev’s five points in 14 games was just too little to make the final cut.
Winchester posted 18 points in 52 games during the 2013-14 season. Known as a responsible two-way player with sneaky strong possession rates, Winchester posted a 51.8 SAT% and was a +1.6 SAT relative to his teammates. In the new NHL of advanced statistics, Winchester provided value during his only season in Florida.
The All-Time Greatest One-Year Wonders
After much deliberation, here is the Florida Panthers’ greatest all-time, one-year wonders squad.
Starting Goaltender – Mike Vernon
Dealt to the Panthers partway through the 1999-00 season, Vernon posted a 2.47 GAA (seventh-best mark in team history) and a 0.919 SV% as the Panthers claimed a playoff berth. The Panthers were swept in the first round but Vernon’s presence stabilized a team that had been out of the playoffs for a couple of seasons.
In the end, Vernon’s participation in a playoff run gives him the edge over Eddie the Eagle…but it was close.
Dennis Wideman – Defense
Dennis Wideman owns the highest point total for a single-season defenseman in Panthers history. Wideman continues to hold the best point total for any one-year Florida Panthers player excluding Aaron Ekblad (who is set to play many more seasons in Florida). Wideman wasn’t always a steady defensive defenseman but his contributions offensively have been tough to replace in Florida.
An offensively-talented defender, Wideman owns the first spot on the “one-year wonders” Florida Panthers team.
Per Gustaffson – Defense
In a somewhat thin group of notable rearguards who played only one season for the Florida Panthers, Per Gustafsson claims the other defenseman spot. After playing seven years in the Swedish Elite League, Gustafsson debuted in the 1996-97 season scoring 29 points and registering a respectable +11 rating.
Gustafsson stuck in the NHL for a couple of seasons before returning to the SEL for an astonishing 12 more seasons. His longevity and defensive responsibility earn Gustafsson the narrow nod over Odelein for the second spot on the one-year wonders Panthers squad.
Mike Foligno – Right Wing
In search of leadership and a well-known name for their expansion lineup in 1993-94, the Panthers acquired Mike Foligno from the Toronto Maple Leafs for cash. In 39 games with the Panthers, Foligno mustered nine points, 49 PIMs, and a respectable plus-seven rating.
Much like Brad Marsh’s turn with the Ottawa Senators in his final season, Foligno’s name value and leadership added much to the Panthers club as it scratched through its first NHL season.
Igor Larionov – Centre
Larionov’s ill-fated turn with the Florida Panthers doesn’t dimish the quality of Larionov’s Hall of Fame career. Larionov left the Detroit Red Wings and signed with the Panthers in 2000-01, scored 11 points in 26 games, and then was promptly traded back to Detroit mid-season.
Despite the short tenure, Larionov enjoyed an illustrious career; 644 points in 921 games, puck possession wizardry, a lifetime 16.2 shooting percentage, three Stanley Cups, and induction into the Hall of Fame. Larionov’s stellar career overall earns this rental Panther a spot on the one-year wonders lineup.
Sergei Samsonov – Left Wing
Sergei Samsonov joined the Panthers for 20 games at the end of the 2010-11 season, scoring 14 points. The diminutive, enigmatic, and skilled forward provided offensive punch for a Panthers’ squad whose high-scorer – Stephen Weiss – potted just 49 points. At his scoring pace over a full season, Samsonov would have been Florida’s top scorer.
After his single season in Florida, Samsonov retired. This decision made him the perfect choice at left wing for the one-and-done Florida Panthers team.
With Mike Vernon in goal, Dennis Wideman and Per Gustafsson on defense, and Igor Larionov centering Mike Foligno and Sergei Samsonov, the best of the Florida Panthers rental players is a unit with some offense, some grit, little defense, and some Hall of Fame clout.
Will Jaromir Jagr or another one-year wonder can join this group eventually? Only time will tell.
What do you think, Florida Panthers fan? Does one of the honourable mentions deserve a spot on this lineup? Is Eddie Belfour just too good to be Mike Vernon’s backup?