The Florida Panthers are showing the rest of the NHL how to succeed on a budget as they eye their first championship.
On Sunday, the Panthers became the first team to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth with a 5-3 victory over the Sabres. Florida has now reached the postseason three consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.
It’s an impressive achievement, considering the Panthers have only the 18th-highest payroll in the NHL ($84.3M) — and their two top offensive stars make a modest $13 million combined.
- Jonathan Huberdeau, who set a franchise record for most points in a single season (97) — good for third-best in the league — carries a cap hit of only $5.9M (124th overall).
- Captain Aleksander Barkov (33 G, 39 A) also has a $5.9M cap hit.
- The Panthers spend heavily on goaltending ($14.1M, 2nd), but Sergei Bobrovsky — who has a team-high $10M cap hit — is tied for second in wins (33).
- The Panthers have an NHL-best plus-83 goal differential, scoring a league-leading 4.12 goals per game while allowing 2.90 (12th).
The Panthers’ success is all the more impressive considering GM Bill Zito is in his second year at the helm, while coach Andrew Brunette took over from Joel Quenneville two weeks into the season.
Florida hasn’t advanced past the first round since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 1996 but has the second-best odds (+550) behind Colorado (+350) to win the title.