The Panthers announced on Wednesday that they signed Owen Tippett to a 3-year, entry-level contract.
The 18-year old right-winger was selected with the 10th-overall pick at June’s entry draft and recently attended the Panthers’ development camp in south Florida.
“I’m thrilled to sign Owen to his first NHL contract,” said General Manager Dale Tallon. “Owen is a natural goal scorer with a bright future and he already possesses NHL-ready size and speed. We’re looking forward to watching him compete for a spot on our NHL roster at training camp this fall.”
Tippett scored 44 goals and added 31 assists in 60 games during his second season with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League. He went on to tally 10 goals in 20 postseason games.
“This kid’s got a chance [to make the team], because he’s got a scoring ability that we obviously…they’re hard to find,” said Tallon of Tippett at June’s development camp.
Because of his age, Tippett isn’t eligible to play in the AHL or ECHL, so he either plays for the Panthers or heads back to his junior team, where he has two more years of eligibility.
However, the Panthers do have the option of allowing Tippett to play 9 NHL games before burning a year of his contract. Once he plays the 10th game, a year comes off his deal, but if he’s sent to the OHL, his entire contract remains intact.
“We’re not gonna put someone in there to fail and hurt them long-term,” said Tallon of the possibility that Tippett makes the team.
“But if we feel there’s someone that has a chance to play and stay and not be stunted by the opportunity to play fewer minutes as opposed to getting a lot more ice time in the American League or back in college or back in junior, so that’s always the million dollar question.”
In the past, the Panthers have rushed their prospects to the big club out of necessity. As the team’s ownership situation stabilized, they’ve been able to spend more to add depth to the team, and players have been able to develop at their own pace in the minors or with their respective junior teams.
The Panthers lost four forwards this off-season, including 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault, and since then, there have been questions about how or if free-agent signings Evgeny Dadonov and Radim Vrbata will be able to fill the voids left behind.
Tippett’s defining ability is his NHL-caliber shot, and combined with his high-end speed, the Panthers will surely be tempted to make room for him on this year’s roster to help out offensively.
He certainly has the chance to become the natural goal-scorer that the Panthers need, but it will be up to the front office to decide how young they’ll want to go this season and whether or not the risk of turning him pro early is worth the reward.
Tippett’s contract has a cap hit of $925,000 in the NHL and carries a total value of $4,975,000. He has potential performance bonuses of $500,000 this coming season and $850,000 in each of the two seasons after that, according to CapFriendly.
Video coach hired
Last week, the Panthers hired Ben Cooper to serve as the team’s video coach.
Tommy Cruz, the Panthers’ video coach for the past three seasons, left the team for the same position with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Cooper, 40, served as the video coach of the Vancouver Canucks since the 2014-15 season and was expected to return for the 2017-18 campaign before leaving on his own to pursue the job with the Panthers.
Cooper also has experience as a video coach with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and in international tournaments with Canada.
He owns gold medals from the 2008 U20 World Junior Championship and 2010 Olympics, two silver medals with the U20 team in 2009 and 2010, and another silver medal from the 2009 World Championship.
From 2011 through 2013, Cooper was an assistant coach for the Victoria Royals of the WHL.
Cooper can be found on Twitter here.