Are the Panthers real? What’s next for Vladimir Tarasenko? What about Kirill Kaprizov? Duhatschek Mailbag – The Athletic

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Thank you all for submitting questions for the first mailbag of the 2021-22 NHL season. The response has been overwhelming and the subjects fascinating and varied. To try to get as much as possible, I divided the mailbag into several installments. Part 1 begins here and now.

What is the ceiling for the Panthers? Can they win a playoff series for the first time since 1996? -David L.

I am very optimistic about the chances of Florida. I consider them to be legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. They were unlucky – after a spectacular regular season – to lure the eventual Tampa Bay Lightning champion in the first round. I don’t claim to have a close relationship with their CEO, Bill Zito, but I have been impressed with virtually every decision he has made since taking office. He’s been bold and aggressive in the commercial market, but hasn’t done anything too outrageous either, presumably knowing he will eventually have to give giant raises to Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. That’s my feeling actually – that they feel the time has come to really push all the chips and try to win.

Their 1-12 depth up front is as good as any in the NHL. Assuming Aaron Ekblad is in good health, they have a deep, experienced, and moderately priced defense body. In the aim, there are question marks on both


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