The Maple Leafs have signed restricted free agent Richard Panik to a one-year deal worth $975,000.
Panik, 24, was a waiver pick up last October after he didn’t make the Lightning out of training camp. In 76 games for the Leafs this past season, he posted 11 goals and 17 points.
Let’s take a bit of a closer look at the year that was for Panik.
He averaged only 11:38 in ice time last season, but still managed 11 goals, ten of which were at even strength as he played only 47 seconds a night on average with the man advantage.
Panik managed to stay above water possession wise on a bad possession team, posting a positive CF% relative to his teammates. His 5v5 CF% RELTM was 1.8, second to only Nazem Kadri among forwards on the team. Panik worked hard, put in honest shifts most nights and brought a physical dimension on the forecheck, which was reflected positively in his possession numbers.
Panik is solid on his skates and showed a willingness to throw his weight around and mix it up physically (even agitate at times) that was a nice bonus to go along with the eleven goals. He’s mostly a straight line player who can get around the rink well and use his body to create space for himself, but he does have little flashes of skill every now and again.
(Jury is still out for me on how on-purpose that finish was after the backhand toedrag).
Panik has a pretty good release and a strong shot, and is willing to go to the dirty areas to try to find offense.
While Panik’s ice time varied and his TOI was fairly low on average, he did get some time next to Nazem Kadri (one of his most common line mates per DobberHockey.com) and some periodic looks in the top six, especially after the deadline when the Leafs moved some bodies out. Panik’s even strength points per 60 stood just 12th among Leaf forwards, ahead of only Josh Leivo, Joakim Lindstrom, Zach Sill, and Trevor Smith.
Panik had just six assists on the season and he scored his eleven goals with a 12.6% shooting percentage, which is unlikely to be repeatable. He’s got a strong shot and he showed a good touch around the net in a few instances this season, so I don’t want to totally punish him for this, but he will need to get his shot rate up to produce regularly, as he averaged only 1.14 shots per game (87 shots in 76 games). Those eleven goals were a nice bonus (and a big improvement on his three from 2013-14 with the Lightning), but as stated his shooting percentage was well above the norm and he actually produced less than he did the season previous with Tampa Bay on a points per game basis (had 13 pts in 50 games for a .26PPG rate, compared to this season’s .22PPG mark).
Based on his production rates, Panik hasn’t proven to be a consistent secondary scorer yet. It will be interesting to see where his numbers track if he can improve his shot rate along with an increase in ice time.
We should get a better idea of where Panik is at after 2015-16. Between his reasonable goal total, possession numbers and his physical play, there was enough there last season to retain him for the time being, and Panik might get some good looks, minutes and opportunity with a Leafs team that won’t be the deepest group around next season. Panik will be 25 by season’s end, so the 2015-16 season will be a big one for him individually.