By Murat Atas (The Athletic)

Paul Maurice’s departure from Winnipeg was sudden and left his assistants scrambling to take charge of a struggling team.

His arrival in Florida is marked with a similar shock.

There’s no way to discuss the Panthers’ new head coach without considering the circumstances of this decision. Andrew Brunette guided Florida to the Presidents’ Trophy and a playoff series win. These are strong accomplishments; under ordinary circumstances, they could represent the beginning of a successful head coaching career. The Panthers’ decision to hire Maurice comes in lieu of simply removing the interim label from Brunette’s title.

It is imperative, then, that Maurice makes the most of the incredible opportunity Florida has offered him.

The Panthers are well-built for multiple seasons ahead but have an especially strong window to contend next season. Jonathan Huberdeau’s $5.9 million AAV contract still represents tremendous salary cap efficiency for one more season. Aleksander Barkov’s big-ticket raise ($10 million AAV) kicks in but he’s at the height of his powers and Aaron EkbladSam ReinhartCarter VerhaegheSam BennettMacKenzie Weegar and Anthony Duclair are all in their prime. Florida’s short-term cap efficiency and wealth of prime-aged talent suggest a team ready and incentivized to win immediately.

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