According to Elliote Friedman of Sportsnet, the Panthers are expected to sign Swedish free-agent defenseman Linus Hultström. Cats on the Prowl has confirmed with multiple sources that this is indeed the case, and as Friedman said, the contract, which is said to be a 2-year deal, will be completed after Hultström’s World Championships status is sorted out.
Linus Hultström is a 23-year old, 5’11”, 180-pound defenseman who just finished up his fourth season in the SHL, Sweden’s top pro hockey league. He tallied 12 goals and 19 assists in 52 games making him the highest scoring defenseman in the league this season, and he finished 3rd among defenseman last season with 33 points in 53 games. Hultström’s team, Djurgårdens IF, was recently eliminated from the SHL playoffs during which he led the entire league with 12 points in 8 games.
Scouting reports say that Hultström is a skilled puck-mover with above average offensive abilities, and from the looks of some highlight videos, that seems to be the case. His one-timer appears to be top-notch and his skating ability seems smooth. A source close to Hultström’s league has told us that he’s “the Erik Karlsson of the SHL,” and that it’s likely he could step in as a really good bottom-4 defenseman in the NHL right now.
With defenseman Willie Mitchell mulling retirement to avoid having to deal with another concussion that could put his health in jeopardy, this has the potential to be a really solid signing for the Panthers. Florida already added top WHL free-agent Dryden Hunt just a month ago, so it’s clear the team is really adamant about adding quality players to improve the depth chart outside of the draft and trades.
Hultström will also create internal competition — something the Panthers have had a lot of lately — when he competes for a roster spot next season. If and when he’s signed, he’ll need to pass through waivers to play in the NHL this season (won’t require them next year), so it’s pretty likely that he’ll play in the AHL to get acclimated to the North American style of play.