Tom Gilbert will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Panthers defenseman Tom Gilbert, fresh off a buyout last summer by his former team, the Minnesota Wild, will miss the remainder of Florida's season after undergoing sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia on Thursday morning, as tweeted by team beat writer George Richards of the Miami Herald.
The news could spell the end of his short-lived stint in a Panthers uniform. Gilbert, 31, will become an unrestricted free agent after this season, and given his bounceback season this year he could command more on the open market than the one-year, $900,000 deal he signed with the Panthers this offseason. The Wild had bought out his six-year, $24 million contract this past summer.
The former 2002 fourth-round pick by the Colorado Avalanche scored three goals and recorded 28 points this season, and he is currently second on the team in time on ice at 21:20 per game.
Buried in second-to-last in the Atlantic -- ahead of only the league-worst Buffalo Sabres -- the team has not won a conference championship since 1995-96.