Kris Versteeg lit it up with the Florida Panthers last season but can he keep up the pace? There's no doubt that Versteeg had a great year. Not only did the left winger have a good year; he had a career year in the 2011-12 season.
Versteeg, who was a restricted free-agent at the end of last season, was rewarded for all of his hard work with a new four year contract on July 23. I'm glad the Cats re-signed Versteeg, he has established himself as one of the Panther's main scoring weapons but how long will the good times roll?
Versteeg, who is 26 years old, has a lot of good hockey in front of him but he has only come close to his production last season one other time in his career.
Last season Versteeg put up 54 points for the season and was third on the team in total points (54) and second in goals (23). The only other time in his career that he put up similar numbers was in the 2008-09 season when he had 53 points with 22 goals with the Chicago Blackhawks. Ironically Versteeg was up for a new contract after the 2008-09 season as well.
Ups and Downs
Even in his slow seasons Versteeg wasn't what I would call a bad player. His worse season to date in the NHL was in 2009-10 when he put up 44 points in 79 games. His play seems to be consistently good but I don't think the Panthers will be content in doling out an average $4.4 million per season for a 44 point per year guy. The Cats obviously count on the kind of performance that Versteeg turned in last year.
One thing that the Cats have going for them is, despite some off-season shuffling, the same first line will take the ice next season. One reason for Versteeg's good performance last year may have had something to do with his chemistry with line mates Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann. Last year the trio was responsible for 70 of the Panthers' 197 goals and the team has made sure that they have every opportunity to continue that success moving forward.
Last year Versteeg did what all players want to do. He had a career year just before negotiating a new contract. If he can keep up the pace, he's worth every penny that the Panthers gave him. There are a lot of mediocre players in the NHL with oversized contracts, let's just hope the Cats can avoid any such pitfalls.
More from this contributor:
All statistics from Yahoo! Sports
Team contract details from FloridaPanthers.com
Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein
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