Dale Tallon's first season running the Panthers was a revelation as the team busted its playoff drought and took the Southeast Division by surprise.
The additions of talented veterans with past success - such as Brian Campbell, Ed Jovanovski, Jose Theodore, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann - helped improve the team's character and competitiveness. But can the Cats repeat the feat?
A year after Erik Gudbranson finally caught on, the Panthers could get an immediate boost from another third-overall pick as Jonathan Huberdeau could be ready for NHL action. He dominated in the QMJHL to the tune of 72 points in 37 games last season.
The team still hasn't made goalie of the future Jacob Markstrom its goalie of today and the team has a glut of forward prospects including Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden waiting in the wings. The team also added blueliner Mike Matheson from the first round of the 2012 draft.
While his size raised draft-day questions, few questioned the heart of 2011 second-rounder Rocco Grimaldi. The tenacious forward was a standout in the American World Junior team, netting a pair in the team's gold-medal victory over Sweden.
The team's core is largely intact, with Jovanovski and Campbell back to anchor the blue line and Versteeg, Weiss and Fleischmann anchoring the forward ranks. The team has good depth and could have added a shrewd signing in Peter Mueller if he can fulfill his once-lofty promise and stay healthy.
Depending on how you look at it, Jason Garrison is either one of the league's top goal-scorers from the point or one of the off-season's biggest overpayments. Only Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber scored more goals than Garrison last season. But the Panthers let "Boom Boom" go to Vancouver, to the tune of a six-year $27.6 million deal.
A look at where Panthers players went during the lockout:
Sean Bergenheim (Helsinki, Finnish Elite), Marcel Goc (Adler Mannheim, German Elite), Tomas Kopecky (HK Dukla Trencin, Slovakia), Filip Kuba (HC Vitkovice, Czech League), Dmitry Kulikov (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL), Mike Santorelli (Tingsryd, Swedish Elite), Jack Skille (Rosenborg IHK Elite, Norway)