Ranking the 5 Best Landing Spots for Panthers Forward Claude Giroux

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2022

Ranking the 5 Best Landing Spots for Panthers Forward Claude Giroux

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    Claude Giroux is used to being in demand.

    He was rumored all season to be headed out of Philadelphia as he approached free agency this summer, and keyboards were abuzz for weeks with ideas about where he'd wind up.

    He ultimately went to Florida to help the Panthers on a would-be run toward the Stanley Cup, but now that a sweep by Tampa Bay ended that dream, it's back to wondering where he'll suit up next.

    The expiring deal paid him $66.2 million over eight years, and it's no great stretch to suggest he'll still be making pretty good money no matter where he winds up—whether he prioritizes perennial contention for a sought-after championship, a return to hometown roots or simply the best available payout.

    The B/R hockey team considered those questions and others while ranking the five best destinations for the 34-year-old forward, considering cash on hand and prospects for winning in those cities alongside other factors that could influence his decision.

    Scroll through to see what we came up with and share your opinion in the comments.

5. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Giroux played 1,000 games for the Philadelphia Flyers, climbed to heady heights in the team's record book and was regarded as a model professional in the locker room and the organization as a whole.

    GM Chuck Fletcher didn't trade him to the Panthers because of a lack of interest in keeping him or a tail-off in productivity. Instead, it was to give him a chance at the championship he'd never won.

    So could he return this summer? Yes. But don't count on it.

    The Flyers were fourth from the bottom of the league's standings, experienced several prolonged losing streaks and had transition in the coaching position. All that occurred with Giroux, so simply putting ink on a new contract and bringing him back won't solve the problems.

    Sentiment matters, and there's plenty to be had, but Philadelphia has systemic issues to address and the guess is that reacquiring a 34-year-old, even an elite one, isn't the highest priority.

4. Boston Bruins

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    Giroux could have been a Bruin already.

    The word before the trade deadline was that Boston was trying to acquire his services, but he nixed the idea to prioritize possible paths to Florida or Colorado, both perceived as stronger Cup contenders.

    The Panthers won out but didn't get their title, which opens the door for the Bruins to at least sniff out his interest. He'd have made sense on the depth chart back in March for the flexibility he'd have provided coach Bruce Cassidy to roll three lines with proven centers.

    That still applies now, and it's not hard to imagine the numbers of former MVP Taylor Hall spiking on the left side with Giroux consistently feeding him.

    Nevertheless, though it's a better competitive situation than Philadelphia, it's also still a long shot because of finances and the other options he'll presumably have on the table.

3. Montreal Canadiens

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    And here's where the sentiment starts creeping in.

    Giroux was a Canadiens fan as a kid and speaks French, so it's only natural that the tradition-laden franchise would pique his interest. Add to that the fact that the team is just a year—a dreadful year, to be sure—removed from a run to the Cup final and it's not the worst competitive option out there.

    He'd instantly be an upgrade at the center position from nearly everything Montreal has on its roster and would fit in nicely with the reservoir of young talent. And there's something to be said about the prospect of living out a boyhood dream, particularly under all those banners.

    The flip side, though, is money.

    The Canadiens are the clinical definition of "up against it" when it comes to the salary cap, so it'd take some clever bookkeeping by GM Kent Hughes to free up the cash Giroux can command.

    And interesting dark horse option, but not quite a favorite.

2. Florida Panthers

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    The Florida Panthers acquired Giroux to help them win a Stanley Cup.

    It didn't happen. But that doesn't mean the partnership is over.

    Giroux produced 23 points in 18 games with the team at the end of the regular season and added eight more in 10 playoff games—second-best on the team behind Carter Verhaeghe.

    So it's clear he fit what interim coach Andrew Brunette was trying to accomplish on the ice and all indications were that he and his family adjusted nicely to the change of scenery away from the rink.

    The Panthers will have some work to do when it comes to salary cap space in order to meet Giroux's price, but there's not a situation out there with a better blend of competitive relevance and familiarity.

    If those are his motivators, this is where he'll play.

1. Ottawa Senators

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    But like it's been with so many players before him, the lure of home is strong.

    Giroux is actually from the northern Ontario outpost of Hearst, but he moved to Ottawa as a teen, attended high school there, began making his mark in junior hockey there and still maintains a residence.

    The Flyers plucked him at the 2006 NHL Draft six spots before the Senators picked, but he made his NHL debut there when Philadelphia visited in 2008 and he was rumored to be kicking the tires a few months back on a possible return this summer.

    The team likely won't be a Cup contender for the next couple years, but there's a strong nucleus of young talent on hand and he'd provide both a proven NHL production level as well as a respected work ethic and presence in the locker room. And it just so happens that Ottawa is flush with better than $23 million in cap room as well, which means the financial side of things wouldn't be a significant obstacle.

    If winning a title next season isn't the deciding factor, look for Giroux in Senators black and red come the fall.