The Panthers announced on Monday afternoon that they’ve re-signed defenseman Erik Gudbranson to a 1-year, $3.5 million contract extension. The 24-year old became a restricted free-agent at the end of the season, and although he was under team control, he was one of their top priorities when it came to renewing player contracts.
The fact that Gudbranson and the Panthers agreed to a 1-year deal is a bit of a surprise considering he showed lots of improvement over the course of this season when it came to consistency and reliability. On the other hand, he still has some room to improve overall, so perhaps that’s one area where the 1-year contract comes in to play.
“Obviously something is gonna happen, this is where I wanna be, no doubt,” said Gudbranson at the team’s exit meetings last month before signing his new contract. “I will be here, but that’s for the business side to be taken care of, and I’ll leave it up to [my agent and Tallon].”
The Panthers also have free-agency coming up in July, Vincent Trocheck is a restricted free-agent as well and could see a fairly nice paycheck when all is said and done, and guys like Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Reilly Smith have contract years coming up. A short-term deal allows the Panthers some breathing room and flexibility financially while also having one more year of team control of Gudbranson after the upcoming season.
Gudbranson ranked second-to-last on the team among defensemen with at least 300 minutes of ice time in Corsi For % at 5v5 with a mark of 46.3%. However, looking at his rolling average, he was much improved during the second half of the season just after mid- to late-January when he trended above the 50% mark the rest of the way, so that’s a good sign. Gudbranson has never really been one to drive offense as his focus is mostly on keeping his own zone in check, but perhaps we’ll see him begin contributing a bit more offensively a la Alex Petrovic.