The Panthers were all but destined for a fall. Two seasons ago, they inexplicably made the playoffs. Well, it is explicable in as much as we know they were in a bad division and they got lucky. However, luck tends to run out, and Florida had flown too close to the Sun, which isn't hard in Florida. That being said, their fall was particularly hard. They finished with the worst record in the league, and the worst goal differential, a whopping -59, more than 20 worse than any other team. That's bad.
Just in the abstract, Florida is pretty much a lock to finish somewhere in between those two extremes. They got a bit unlucky last season, and perhaps this year their luck will be more mild. When you are a team like Florida, and you don't have the cap space to dish out ridiculous contracts, because you already did that once, you don't tend to be able to convince free agents to sign with you. However, Florida already had their big free agency spree. Now it is about adding the young guys. Some, like, Jonathan Huberdeau and Dmitri Kulikov, have already shown their skills. Now is the time for players like Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad, and second overall pick in 2013 Aleksander Barkov to be a part of the rebuild as well.
The Panthers lost Stephen Weiss, but it's OK because they signed Scott Gomez. Everything is cool. In seriousness, having Kris Versteeg healthy will help, and Peter Mueller, when he is on the ice, has skill as well. Goaltending is the big question mark though. Jakob Markstrom is, they hope, their future in net. On the plus side, he was their best netminder has season. On the minus side, it was still only a .901. He needs to be much better, but he's only 23, and the skills are there.
Florida won't sniff the playoffs this year. Not happening. They may not finish at the bottom of the division, because Buffalo is also rebuilding, but they aren't going to be good. In terms of on ice performance, they will almost assuredly be better. They probably won't be the worst team in the league. Even if they are, and they might, their goal differential should be better. The Panthers have some good young players, but they have a ways to go before they are a good team as a whole.