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The Oilers and Panthers were built differently

Edmonton Oilers Florida Panthers
Photo credit:Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
14 days ago
A quick look at the roster of the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers makes you realize there are very different ways to build a Stanley Cup contender. The Panthers and Oilers rank first and second respectfully in playoff games played and playoff wins over the past three seasons, so maybe it is fitting they will meet in the Stanley Cup Final, but their rosters were constructed very differently.
Let’s take a look.
It has long been believed that drafting and developing is the best path to Stanley Cup success. I think that is true; however, you can also develop players and use them in trades. The Panthers currently only have three (technically four) draft picks on their roster, while Edmonton has drafted 10 current players.

DRAFT PICKS…

Florida:
Aleksander Barkov: Second pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.
Aaron Ekblad: First player taken in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Anton Lundell: 12th selection at the 2020 NHL Draft.
*Dmitri Kulikov: 14th selection at the 2009 NHL Draft.
He played for Florida until the end of the 2016 season, but then spent the next seven seasons playing for Buffalo (47 GP), Winnipeg (170GP), New Jersey (38), Edmonton (10), Minnesota (80), Anaheim (61) and Pittsburgh (6) before returning to Florida this season. I’d argue he’s more of a free agent signing than a draft pick on this current roster.
Edmonton:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: First pick in the 2011 NHL draft.
Darnell Nurse: Seventh pick at the 2013 NHL draft.
Leon Draisaitl: Third selection of the 2014 NHL draft.
Connor McDavid: First choice at the 2015 NHL draft.
Vincent Desharnais: 183rd pick in the 2016 NHL draft.
Stuart Skinner: 78th selection at the 2017 NHL draft.
Evan Bouchard: 10th pick at the 2018 NHL draft.
Ryan McLeod: 40th selection in the 2018 NHL draft.
Philip Broberg: Eighth pick at the 2019 NHL draft.
Dylan Holloway: 14th choice at the 2020 NHL draft.
In the eight seasons between 2011 to 2019 the Oilers made the playoffs once, while Florida made it twice. Both teams played a total of 13 playoff games, yet the Oilers have 10 draft picks on their roster compared to three for the Panthers. Florida moved some of their drafted players out in trades, and many have worked out magnificently.

TRADE ACQUISITIONS:

Florida:
Eetu Luostarinen: Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes with defenseman Chase Priskie, forward Erik Haula and forward Lucas Wallmark in exchange for forward Vincent Trocheck (third-round pick in 2013) on February 23, 2020.
Brandon Montour: Acquired from the Buffalo in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick (Stiven Sardarian) on April 10, 2021.
Sam Bennett: Acquired from the Calgary Flames with a 2022 sixth-round pick (Gustav Karlsson) in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick (David Goyette) and Emil Heineman (second-round pick in 2020) on April 12, 2021.
Sam Reinhart: Acquired from the Buffalo in exchange for goaltender Devon Levi and a 2022 first-round pick (Jiri Kulich) on July 24, 2021.
Matthew Tkachuk: Acquired from the Calgary Flames with a conditional 2025 fourth-round pick in exchange for forward Jonathan Huberdeau (first-round pick in 2011), defenseman MacKenzie Weegar (7th round pick in 2013), forward Cole Schwindt (third-round pick in 2019), and a conditional 2025 first-round pick on July 22, 2022.
Steven Lorentz: Acquired from the San Jose Sharks with a 2025 fifth-round draft pick in exchange for forward Anthony Duclair on July 1, 2023.
Vladimir Tarasenko: Acquired from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick and a 2025 third-round pick on March 6, 2024.
Kyle Okposo: Acquired from the Buffalo in exchange for defenseman Calle Sjalin and a conditional 2024 seventh-round pick on March 8, 2024.
General Manager Bill Zito made three stellar acquisitions in Montour, Bennett, and Reinhart and then made the massive Tkachuk for Huberdeau and Weegar trade. Those four deals drastically augmented the Panthers’ core.
Edmonton:

Warren Foegele: Acquired from Carolina for Ethan Bear on July 28, 2021.
Brett Kulak: Acquired from the Montreal Canadiens for William Lagesson, a 2022 second-round pick (Lane Hutson) and a 2024 seventh-round pick on March 21, 2022.
Mattias Ekholm: Acquired from the Nashville Predators with a 2024 sixth-round pick in exchange for Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer (2022 first-round pick), a 2023 first-round pick (Tanner Molendyk) and a 2024 fourth-round pick on February 28, 2023.
Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick: Acquired from the Anaheim Ducks with a 2024 seventh-round pick in exchange for a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional 2025 fifth-round pick on March 6, 2024.
Troy Stecher: Acquired from the Arizona Coyotes along with a 2024 seventh-round pick in exchange for a 2027 fourth-round pick on March 7, 2024.
General Manager Ken Holland’s acquisitions of Ekholm and Kulak really bolstered the Oilers’ blue line. The Ekholm trade was franchise-altering in how it improved the left side, and it also gave Evan Bouchard the ideal partner to allow him to flourish and grow into a #1 defenceman.

FREE AGENT SIGNINGS…

Florida

Sergei Bobrovsky: Signed a seven-year, $10m AAV deal on July 1, 2019.
Carter Verhaeghe: Signed a two-year, $1m AAV deal on October 9, 2020. Then, they signed him to a three-year, $4.167m extension that ends next season.
Ryan Lomberg: Signed a two-year, $725K AAV deal on October 9, 2020. Then, they signed him to a two-year, $800K extension that ends this year.
Nick Cousins: Signed a two-year, $1.1m AAV deal on July 13, 2022.
Evan Rodrigues: Signed a four-year, $3m AAV deal on July 2, 2023.
Niko Mikkola: Signed a three-year, $2.5m AAV deal on July 1, 2023.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson: Signed a one-year, $2.25m deal on July 1, 2023.
Dmitry Kulikov.: Signed a one-year, $1m deal on July 1, 2023.
Kevin Stenlund: Signed a one-year, $1m deal on July 1, 2023.
Anthony Stolarz: Signed a one-year, $1.1m deal on July 1, 2023.
Jonah Gadjovich: Signed a one-year, $810K deal on October 16, 2023. Signed a two-year, $775K extension on March 7, 2024.
One of the Panthers’ best acquisitions came via the waiver wire when they claimed Gustav Forsling off waivers from Carolina on January 9, 2021. Forsling has worked his way up the depth chart and is now a top-pair defender. They also used waivers to claim Josh Mahura from Anaheim on October 10, 2022, and Tobias Bjornfot was claimed from Vegas on March 8, 2024. Neither has played in the playoffs, but are depth D-men in case of injury.
Zito signed seven UFAs this past summer after losing the Cup Final last year. He also added Lorentz, Tarasenko and Okposo via trade. Zito hasn’t been afraid to make significant changes.

Edmonton

Zach Hyman: Signed a seven-year, $5.5m AAV deal on July 28, 2021.
Cody Ceci: Signed a four-year, $3.25m AAV deal on July 28, 2021.
Derek Ryan: Signed a two-year, $1.25m AAV deal on July 28, 2021. Signed a two-year, $900K AAV extension on June 13, 2023.
Evander Kane: Signed a one-year, $1.375m deal on January 27, 2022. Signed a four-year, $5.125m AAV extension on July 12, 2022.
Calvin Pickard: Signed a two-year, $762.5K AAV deal on July 13, 2022.
Jack Campbell: Signed a five-year, $5m AAV deal on July 13, 2022.
Mattias Janmark: Signed a one-year, $1.25m deal on July 17, 2022. Signed a one-year $1m extension on June 30, 2023.
Connor Brown: Signed a one-year, $775K deal on July 1, 2023. It included $3.225m in bonuses, which will now carry over to next season.
Sam Gagner: Signed a one-year, $775K deal on October 31, 2023.
Corey Perry: Signed a pro-rated $775K deal on January 22, 2024. Also has $325K in bonuses, which he has now reached and those will carry over to next season.
Of the 26 players on the Oilers’ roster (I included Campbell, because almost $3.9m of his cap hit counts against their cap this season while he was in Bakersfield) they drafted 10, signed 10 via free agency and traded for six.
Of those 25 players on Florida’s roster, they signed 11 via free agency, plucked three off waivers, drafted three and traded for eight.

DIFFERENT APPROACHES…

The Oilers have built the majority of their core through the draft. Hyman was their best free agent signing, while the Ekholm trade was the final major addition to their core. The Kulak trade has been very important, and despite some ups and downs, Cody Ceci has played big minutes for the Oilers in his tenure.
The Panthers signed Sergei Bobrovsky to a massive deal in free agency, and while the first few years weren’t great, he’s been quite good lately. Their three draft picks are key pieces, but Zito has built much of his core via astute trades and the Carter Verhaeghe signing has been a massive win for them.
Both teams have lots of money tied up in their top-10 players.
McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman, RNH, Kane, Nurse, Ekholm, Bouchard, Ceci and Skinner have a combined cap hit of $61,750,000-million.
Barkov, Tkachuk, Reinhart, Vergaeghe, Bennett, Ekblad, Forsling, Montour, Mikkola, and Bobrovsky have a combined cap hit of $63,841,667 million.
I think the above totals debunk the myth that Florida has a significant advantage by signing players to lower deals due to playing in a no-tax state. There can be a tax benefit for the players, but Florida, like Tampa, hasn’t seen players take huge discounts to sign with them. But I digress.
The Oilers and Panthers have taken slightly different approaches to building their teams, but they’ve spent similar money on top players and then filled out their roster with a few trades, mainly via free agency. Players have signed short-term deals to play in Edmonton and Florida, mainly because they’ve been competitive.
Zito and Holland have built good teams, and now both GMs will watch and hope their squads can win four more games.

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