3 Panthers Players Who Won’t Be Back Next Season

The Florida Panthers are a very dominant team this season that has only gotten better since the trade deadline. There are a bunch of pending UFAs on the team, but the expectation is that they will try to re-sign a number of them. With the cap space available and players asking for more, there will be changes though, so let's take a look.

Kyle Okposo

Kyle Okposo was one of the deadline additions by the Panthers who fits into the bottom-six. He is nearing the end of his career as he will be 36 next month. Even though he is having a strong season and that's why he was able to be moved, the team is more comfortable with the younger fourth liners who play their roles well over someone who may decline at a large rate at any time. The Panthers should be happy with Okposo for their run, but it is a risk to keep him around.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Oliver Ekman-Larsson has rejuvenated his career in Florida this season and has been given a great opportunity to succeed. He has performed on the power play all season, even slotting in on the top unit while there were injuries. He is a solid second line defenseman, but has been playing on his off side at times as well. He took a one-way contract with a low cap hit to come to Florida as they gave him an opportunity, but there's too many high AAV players on the back-end that the Panthers have to worry about first. I don't think they will be able to afford what Ekman-Larsson is going to be asking for after this season. With Gustav Forsling, Niko Mikkola, and Josh Mahura on the left side, there really isn't much room going forward either.

Dmitry Kulikov

Dmitry Kulikov is still a sixth/seventh defenseman in the NHL, but if the Panthers were healthy, he would be out of the lineup. He hasn't played a ton of minutes this season and is turning 34 by the time the action gets going next season. As a pending UFA, the team has other younger options to fill the role he has played this season. There's a feeling he's coming to the end of his career and a Stanley Cup contender can't take risks on players who might be a liability due to their age.

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