Is Nick Bjugstad Playing Himself Out Of Florida?
April 1, 2017, 2:40 PM ET [2 Comments]
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This season has been a disaster for Nick Bjugstad.
The first round pick from 2010(19th overall) has been a struggle in terms of health and production in ways he's never experienced.
At 6'6", 218 lbs. the hulking center seemingly has all the tools to be a very good player in this league. It's only been four seasons since he lead the Panthers in points, albeit on a terrible team.
The ability is there.
But this season has seen his game disappear.
He's only played in 50 out of 78 games and as of this moment has only six goals and five assists on the year.
That is unacceptable, and he was yet another player GM/interim head coach Tom Rowe called out publicly as an underperformer that needed to get in gear.
While Rowe's tactics of criticizing players publicly have been criticized as well, he's on the mark with Bjugstad who has been considered part of this young core now and in the future.
Are his days becoming numbered?
It remains to be seen if Rowe will have a job with the Panthers beyond this season, but he hinted that underachieving "core" players like Bjugstad could be traded away in the offseason.
To put it in perspective, defenseman Alex Petrovic has two more points playing in five less games than Bjugstad.
Bjugstad is currently in the second year of a six-year deal that will pay him $26 million. He has the sixth biggest cap hit on the club at $4.1 million annually.
At the time his contract looked like a great deal. He was one of the first young players to get locked in by Dale Tallon in an attempt to give the player financial security while benefitting the team long term.
Clearly the team did not get their money's worth this season.
For a player that has averaged 18 goals and 38 points over his previous three seasons, it's hard to pinpoint what has happened this year.
Many people will just blame Rowe, who is the whipping boy for all Panther problems this year.
There might be some merit to this theory.
Rowe has misused and underplayed Bjugstad according to many. While Rowe seemingly rewards the players that are performing the best at the time, he never really gave Bjugstad the chance to get going either.
On a power play that perennially struggles, it would seem putting the biggest forward on the team in front of the net would make sense, but that never consistently came to fruition.
Those kind of moves, or lack thereof, had fans continuously incensed with Rowe.
Bjugstad is the pillar of character and exactly what Tallon wants in the locker room, but would that be enough to offset a season that never got started?
With the emergence of Jonathan Marchessault and players like Barkov, Huberdeau, Trocheck that are automatics to be protected in the expansion draft, will Bjugstad be exposed?
He could be the type of player that needs a change of scenery to get re-energized, and he might be a perfect fit for Vegas to incorporate into their new culture.
If I'm Knights GM George McPhee I'd be very intrigued with snatching up Bjugstad if he was available.
Would the Panthers give up on what Bjugstad could bring to the table after one terrible season?
Nothing would surprise at this point.
While plus/minus is often considered an antiquated, irrelevant stat by many, Bjugstad's -20 is especially telling in terms of his overall game this year. The only other player worse than him on the roster? Aaron Ekblad at -23. Yes, it's been that kind of season for the Florida Panthers.
There will be some tough decisions to be made in this organization from top to bottom after this debacle of a season.
Bjugstad will likely be the player that provides the most discussion.