According to a report from TSN insiders Frank Seravalli and Darren Dreger, Florida Panthers assistant coach Mike Kitchen will step down from his position with the team after an alleged physical encounter with a Panthers player.
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It seems worthwhile to note that Kitchen opted out of the NHL's Return to Play and did not join the Panthers in the Toronto bubble.
It would be wrong to speculate on what happened or who's at fault because the fact of the matter is that we don't know what happened. Or if anything happened at all. What we can do though is look at these allegations as just another strike against a Panthers franchise that has had a truly awful summer. Go back a calendar year and you'll remember that there was so much excitement heading into the season for this team. They hired legendary head coach Joel Quenneville, they signed goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to a MONSTER contract and they finally looked like they had a roster that could get back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And they did... well kinda...
The Panthers of course bowed out to the New York Islanders during the NHL's Qualifying Series and, frankly, they never looked like much of a playoff threat all season long. The truth of the matter is that there's still a LOT of work to do in south Florida if this team is going to be competitive in 2020-21. Pending unrestricted free agents like Evgeni Dadonov, Mike Hoffman and Erik Haula all look like they're history as the club simply doesn't have the finances to retain their services. And don't look now but superstar captain Aleksander Barkov is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in just two years. You think he's going to hang around if things don't improve over the next 40 months? Not a chance.
What does the future hold for Aaron Ekblad and his $7.5 million annual salary? He's a great player at 24 years old, but he hasn't really elevated himself to the status the Panthers hoped he would when he was signed back in 2016. Some big time decisions will need to be made on the Panthers' roster this offseason. Stay tuned.