During Aleksander Barkov’s time with the Florida Panthers, he has had eight different coaches and three different general managers. The team has experienced more regular-season losses than wins, except for the last two years. They have never advanced beyond the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Barkov faced challenges in his career, becoming captain in 2018 but missing the Cup playoffs for three consecutive years. However, at 27 years old, he is now playing on the grandest stage in his sport. The team that drafted him as a 17-year-old prospect with the No. 2 pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft is still his team.
The Longest Tenures
Despite missing the playoffs for six out of his first eight seasons, Barkov chose to stay with the Panthers. He didn’t explore free agency and instead signed an eight-year, $80 million extension in 2021. This happened just as he was entering the final year of his initial contract with the team.
After being selected as the top pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Aaron Ekblad faced a similar situation. Despite having only two seasons and a losing record, the talented defenseman committed to an eight-year, $60 million extension with the Panthers in 2016. He has overcome significant injuries in the past three seasons to reach this stage.
The Game is Important
Star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Eetu Luostarinen are the only other players on the postseason roster who was with the Panthers before general manager Bill Zito arrived in 2020. This run holds special significance for them.
The upcoming games seem to be a platform for the underdogs to rise. It is going to be an exciting series of matches, no doubt. Fans are already pouring in for the ultimate melee of the season. All that we are waiting to see for now is how the players react to this.
Just like his teammates, Ekblad had a challenging regular season with ups and downs. The 27-year-old Canadian defenseman had a plus-minus rating of minus-14, which was the second worst in his career. This was unexpected as he was considered a potential contender for the James Norris Memorial Trophy.
“The players who were here when I arrived have been important for maintaining stability and contributing to our team. While we have many new players who are also part of it, it feels like they have a sense of ownership in the team from the start,” said the GM on Friday.
Barkov the Underdog
Barkov has improved in the playoffs. Also, he scored more points and played great defence. In his first three postseasons, he didn’t perform as well. But in these playoffs, he played better, scoring 14 points in 16 games and being strong defensively.
On Friday, left-wing Carter Verhaeghe remarked, “He has experienced the highs, lows, and challenges, witnessing different management changes. He has seen it all, and I believe reaching this point is truly special for him.”
The NHL announced on Friday that Flo Rida, a rapper from Miami Gardens, will perform a special concert before Game 3 of the Cup Final on Thursday. The show will take place in parking lot C2 outside FLA Live Arena in Sunrise at 6 p.m., with gates opening at 6:30 p.m.
The league announced that the Panthers will host watch parties outside the arena for Games 3 and 4. They will announce additional performers for future games soon. All in all, it does sound like it is going to be a grand event.
1. What is Stanley Cup named after?
Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley.
2. Who owns the Stanley Cup?
NHL owns the Stanley Cup.
Also read: Can the Brooklyn Nets go all the way?