3 Florida Panthers who won’t be back next season

Florida Panthers, Patric Hornqvist. (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)

The Florida Panthers came up short in the Stanley Cup Final. Now the roster will look different in the 2023-24 season as these three players won’t be back.

Just like that, it’s over for the Florida Panthers. Yes, this was a playoff run for the ages. They stunned the record-setting Boston Bruins. They upset the high-octane Toronto Maple Leafs. They swept the powerhouse Carolina Hurricanes. They won a Stanley Cup Final contest, which was new territory for the franchise.

But on Tuesday, Florida lost to Vegas, 9-3, in Game 5. The Golden Knights won the series 4-1, clinching their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Now, still yearning for a Cup of their own, Florida heads into an intriguing offseason.

The Panthers don’t have any first-round draft picks until 2026 due to the Mathew Tkachuk trade. They may seek one through exchange to use in the upcoming draft. However, they wouldn’t want to trade away players integral to their future success, even if they didn’t win the Stanley Cup this season.

For instance, they might consider trading Sam Bennett or Sam Reinhart if GM Bill Zieto determines that doing so would benefit them in the long run. Even with this, most core players, such as Aleksander Barkov, Tkachuk, Aaron Ekblad, and Spencer Knight, are signed for several years, so he won’t entertain trading them.

The team is open to re-signing Radko Gudas. He’s established himself as one of the hardest-working defensemen in the NHL. Meanwhile, players like Luostarinen and Montour are unlikely to be traded.

But some aren’t. For some, Game 5 was likely the last time they wore a Florida Panthers sweater. Let’s look at least three who fall into that department.

Florida Panthers: 3 players who won’t be back next season

3. Patric Hornqvist

Patric Hornqvist has been on LTIR since December after his second concussion in two months. The 36-year-old veteran of 15 NHL seasons won two Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. He’s expected to announce his retirement shortly.

Hornqvist displayed his unique knowledge of the game by participating in the Panthers coaches’ meetings during their playoff run. Hornqvist was taken 230th in the 2005 NHL draft by the Nashville Predators. Throughout his career, he’s scored 264 goals and 543 points in 901 regular-season games and 28 goals and 53 points in 106 playoff games.

“There’s not enough superlatives to describe what he’s meant to us on the ice and then subsequently in the room, helping, pushing, pulling, doing anything and everything he can to help the team,” GM Bill Zito told the Athletic (subscription required). “Helping individuals. Talking to the young guys. We’ve relied on him, too (in the front office). He has experience. He has two Cups. If you know him at all, he’s not afraid to share.”

“When you play, you’re so focused on the game, and you don’t see everything that goes behind,” Hornqvist said.

“And you know what? I love the game. I want to give back to the game, and that’s why I try to be around as much as I can, in different positions, too, to see where the game can take me when I’m done playing.”

“He sees the game in the unique way that he can articulate what’s happening on the ice,” head coach Paul Maurice said. With his exceptional understanding of the sport, Maurice sees Hornqvist going far in hockey. Perhaps potentially working in a front office or becoming a bench boss himself.

The Panthers faced numerous injuries this season, and their medical team had to decide when a player could return. However, they added an extra challenge this season, as the player had to pass a skating session with Hornqvist to prove their readiness.

“If you can skate with him, you’re good,” Maurice said. “He’s half-doctor, half-coach, certainly the bar setter as far as the ability to come back and play.”

“There’s never going to be another Horny,” Barkov said. “He just means a lot to our team, his work ethic and how professional he is about everything in hockey.”

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