The Florida Panthers are in line for a busy off-season

2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round 2-7
2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round 2-7 / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The Florida Panthers are in a dog fight with the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final with a 3-2 series lead. The series has been exciting as both teams are fighting for an advantage to seek a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. Panthers General Manager Bill Zito may have his sights on winning the Stanley Cup but he also may be looking ahead to the off-season when the Panthers could be busy.

Panthers' Zito up for the challenge

While Florida is still playing in the playoffs, it does not take away from the fact they have some work to do in the off-season. The Panthers have 29 free agents to either be re-signed or let go and Zito is ready to make things happen. Zito does have a tight salary cap to do this with, as the Panthers have a projected cap space of $19.7 million to do some magic in terms of setting next season's roster. They need to find a way to fill the NHL roster and rosters throughout the organization. It is a difficult task but this is why Florida re-signed Zito to a new multi-year extension.

The list of free agents , bot restricted and unrestricted, are below:

Unrestricted- Nick cousins, Ryan Lomberg, Steven Lorentz, Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart, Kevin Stenlund, Vladimir Tarasenko, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Dmitry Kulikov, Brandon Montour, Anthony Stolarz, Gerald Mayhew, Alex True, Lucas Carlsson, Casey Fitzgerald, Matt Kierstad, and Magnus Hellberg.

Restricted- Anton Lundell, Josh Mahura, Rasmus Asplund, Patrick Giles, Santtu Kinnunen, Evan Cormier, and Mack Guzda.

Top priorities for Zito should be Reinhart and Montour as they have been excellent all season. With the year that Reinhart has had, and the steady play of Montour, re-signing them may use up close to half of the projected cap space. Florida is a deep team but some key players like Lomberg, Lundell, Tarasenko, Ekman-Larsson, Kulikov, and Stolarz will be players that should receive the most attention from Zito. They have all played their roles well and fit in with the Panthers style of play. Florida and Zito has a big project ahead of them to bring back as many of the key pieces as possible. That will be a big task but he has doen this before and is not afraid to do it again.