Barry Jackson

NHL evaluator assesses Panthers’ pickups

Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal (11) smiles as he celebrates his game-winning goal against the San Jose Sharks with right wing Radim Vrbata (17) --- who signed with the Panthers this offseason --- during overtime of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 3-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal (11) smiles as he celebrates his game-winning goal against the San Jose Sharks with right wing Radim Vrbata (17) --- who signed with the Panthers this offseason --- during overtime of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 3-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) AP

So what exactly are the Heat and Panthers getting with their July veteran acquisitions? We offer two scouts’ opinions about Heat pickup Kelly Olynyk here.

For reaction on the Panthers’ moves, we solicited the view of a veteran NHL Eastern Conference front office executive who has studied all of Florida’s pickups.

First, some perspective:

After averaging just 2.5 goals per game last season (23rd in the league), the Panthers lost four forwards — Jaromir Jagr, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Jussi Jokinen --- who scored 72 of Florida’s 205 goals. The three forwards signed (Evgeni Dadonov, Radim Vrbata, Michael Haley) scored 52, with Dadonov’s 30 coming in Russia. In May, they also added Henrik Haapala, who led a Finnish league in scoring.

Feedback on the three newcomers:

• On the 28-year-old Dadonov, who had 10 goals and 10 assists in 55 games over three years with the Panthers, then went to Russia and a career-high 66 points in 53 games for SKA St. Petersburg:

Panthers GM Dale Tallon: “Plays a hard, 200-foot game, is very creative and very fast.”

Eastern Conference front office executive: “I think he’s appreciably better than he was a few years ago. For whatever reason, he picked up a step. He’s a little more focused athlete. I always thought he was an average skater. Now I think he’s an above average skater. Put that together with his hockey intellect and skills, it makes him an attractive player. I always liked his ability to find other people and he went to the KHL and became a sniper. He will provide offense and defense. Can he play with a guy like [Aleksander] Barkov? Absolutely.”

The Panthers project him for their first line with Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.

• On winger Radim Vrabata, who had 20 goals and 55 points in 81 games for Arizona last season and is projected for Florida’s second line:

Tallon: “In three of the last four years, Vrbata scored over 50 points. Exciting, talented forward.”

The Eastern Conference executive: “He’s a good teammate, another high IQ guy. He’s a gifted offensive player. Never been known for the physical part of the game. He’s had pretty good numbers. [At 36], I think he’s got another year of doing that.”

• On winger Michael Haley, who got into 16 fights and had two goals, 10 assists and 128 penalty minutes in 58 games for San Jose:

Executive: “They probably thought they needed to replace Shawn Thornton and some of the energy he brings. He displayed an element of skill in the minors. When he gets to NHL, he seems more than satisfied playing a different role. Very physical player. Fourth line player.”

The executive did not object to the Panthers exposing Marchessault in the expansion draft to Las Vegas in order to keep an additional defenseman instead.

But as the executive said, this team’s playoff chances rest largely with the Panthers’ high-end players (Aaron Ekblad, Huberdeau, Barkov, Nick Bjugstad) being healthy and playing like high-end players and the Roberto Luongo/James Reimer goaltender duo playing at a high-level.

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