As the Florida Panthers look to avoid missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, Dale Tallon made a move to help address maybe the team’s biggest need... depth.
Just days before the trade deadline, the Panthers made a move in an attempt to try to add some scoring to their bottom-six, acquiring Frank Vatrano from the Boston Bruins in exchange for a third-round pick.
Vatrano, Boston born and raised, had spent the entirety of his short NHL career with his hometown Bruins, and will now get an opportunity to reestablish the scoring touch that he has struggled with this season.
Time with Boston
After going undrafted, Vatrano attended UMASS-Amherst where he registered 18 goals and 10 assists in 36 games his last year in school.
He signed with Boston as an undrafted free agent, and made his debut with the Providence Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL).
His first full season was a memorable one, as Vatrano scored 36 goals in 36 games while in the AHL, and then another eight in 39 NHL games with the Bruins. His first professional season saw him register 43 goals across 75 games played.
It wasn’t a pace that he was expected to maintain, but it had appeared that the Bruins found themselves a depth scoring option.
Last season, Vatrano got into a career-high 44 NHL games and registered 10 goals - which put him on pace for 18 over an entire 82 game season. This all while playing mostly fourth-line minutes and bouncing in and out of the lineup.
This season saw Vatrano get buried on the depth chart as he struggled to produce at all, scoring only twice in 25 games played, quickly getting passed by others coming up from Providence.
What went wrong?
Vatrano showed a lot of promise his first two years with the Bruins. In those seasons, he registered 18 goals, good for seventh among forwards in that span and did so in almost half the amount of games that Matt Beleskey needed - a big free agent signing for Boston - to reach that same total.
Goal scorers can be a streaky bunch, and sometimes it is hard to get things going when you're not getting enough ice-time. Vatrano’s TOI/G at 5v5 has seen an almost three-minute decrease this season, compared to what he was getting his first two years.
*stats from Naturalstattrick.com
Along with his ice time, Vatrano has also seen a decrease in his shot rate (shots-per 60 minutes play, S/60), as well as shooting percentage. So, it isn’t much of a surprise that his goals-per 60 minutes is in a middle of a three-year decline.
How he fits in with Florida
The Panthers are counting on a new start, with maybe more of an opportunity, which should help Vatrano find his touch once again.
They could certainly use the extra scoring for the teams bottom-six.
With Maxim Mamin scoring his first career NHL goal, that means the current bottom-six has found the back of the net 28 times this season.
That’s across six players, who have totaled 255 man games this season, meaning the bottom two lines average .10 goals-per-game. Jared McCann and Colton Sceviour, likely the two best players from your bottom-six, have combined for nearly half (13-of-28) of those goals.
Even counting this season, Vatrano alone is outscoring the Panthers bottom-six on a per-game basis.
While a third-round pick might have been a steep price to pay for a player that was treading in the wrong direction, he fills a need the Panthers were looking to address.
It may not be the biggest or flashiest moves out there, but no team can win with just two solid lines during the playoffs.
Adding Vatrano isn’t the answer but it could be the start of the Panthers making it so that opposing teams have to prepare for more than their top-two lines.
What do you think of the Vatrano trade? Did the Panthers give up too much in hopes of Vatrano refinding his scoring touch? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.