NHL Rumor Mill – March 27, 2019
Officially eliminated from the playoff race, the Florida Panthers could make some big offseason changes this summer. Get the details in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE SCORE: cited The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun’s recent interview with Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, who indicated his club will be aggressively attempting to build up their roster this summer. “It’s just a matter of adding the right pieces this summer. The great thing is our owner Vinnie Viola is committed to being a cap team. He wants to win. He wants us to do what we have to do. It’s a really good situation,” said Tallon.
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: During an appearance on Montreal’s TSN 690 yesterday, LeBrun said he expects the Florida Panthers will try to make a big splash in the offseason. LeBrun believes they’ll pursue Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and left-wing Artemi Panarin via free agency this summer. Failing that, they’ll attempt to make some trades.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski and Chris Peters believe the Panthers must sort out their goaltending. Roberto Luongo has three years remaining on his contract and no intention of leaving the Panthers. They speculate the oft-sidelined Luongo could end up on long-term injury reserve next season. Backup James Reimer has two years left on his contract but he’s been a big disappointment this season. The Panthers might also consider making room for promising Sam Montembeault.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell believes the Panthers must focus on repairing a leaky blueline. He suggests they target Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba, who’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Campbell feels every indication suggests Trouba could depart the Jets perhaps as early as this summer and could be a prime trade candidate.
Campbell also doubts the Panthers have much chance of landing San Jose Sharks blueliner Erik Karlsson via free agency, especially with Mike Hoffman in the lineup. He doesn’t see much depth for blueliners in the free-agent market beyond Karlsson to address the Panthers’ defensive needs, listing Toronto’s Jake Gardiner, Vancouver’s Alexander Edler, and Winnipeg’s Tyler Myers as other possible options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers have a solid nucleus of young talent, led by forwards Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Vincent Trocheck, and blueliners Aaron Ekblad and Mike Matheson. They have no trouble scoring goals, sitting ninth this season in goals per game (3.19). It’s keeping the puck out of their net that’s the problem. Their 3.40 goals-against per game is the league’s third worst.
Cap Friendly indicates they have nearly $62 million invested in 16 players, giving them nearly $21 million to work with if the cap reaches the projected $83 million. They could get more if they place Luongo ($4.53 million) on LTIR or move Riemer and his $3.4 million salary-cap hit.
Luongo said he hasn’t made a decision either way regarding his future but admits it’s a bit of a tough situation. He still loves to play but the 39-year-old admits he cannot handle a heavy workload anymore but he hopes to contribute in some way going forward.
Bobrovsky is the only active multiple Vezina Trophy winner in the league. His struggles this season could be tied to his obvious unhappiness playing with the Blue Jackets and he could regain his form with a change of scenery. His poor playoff record, however, could be cause for concern. Given the lack of quality depth in this summer’s free-agent and goalie market, however, the Panthers might not have much choice but to pursue Bobrovsky.
I agree with Campbell’s take on the Panthers defense corps. If the Jets are willing to move Trouba this summer, Tallon should definitely pursue him. The Jets won’t give Trouba away but the Panthers’ salary-cap room and the depth in draft picks and prospects could give them an edge.