NHL Rumor Mill – March 3, 2019
The Florida Panthers could be major players in this summer’s trade and free-agent market. Here’s a look at who they could target, plus some possible off-season options for the Vancouver Canucks, in today’s NHL rumor mill.
PANTHERS WILL BE BUSY THIS SUMMER
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien praised the Florida Panthers for not dealing away notable wingers such as Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman at the trade deadline. He noted Panthers general manager Dale Tallon intends to “go big” in this summer’s free-agent market, pointing out he has plenty of draft picks now and lots of salary-cap room.
With over $61 million invested in 14 players, O’Brien observes the Panthers have sufficient room to target Columbus Blue Jackets’ pending free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Both were linked to the Panthers in trade speculation before the deadline.
Still, it will require some tweaking, leading O’Brien to wonder if Tallon could tempt the Ottawa Senators to take goaltender James Reimer off their hands by packaging him with a couple of those draft picks. If the Panthers fail to sign Bobrovsky, O’Brien wonders if Tallon could use those picks in an effort to pry Corey Crawford away from the Chicago Blackhawks.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In his post-trade deadline mailbag, George Richards was asked who the Panthers might target this summer if they fail to land Panarin or Bobrovsky. Given their depth of scoring forwards, he feels they could stand pat at that position but considers goaltending a pressing issue. If Bobrovsky’s unavailable, Richards speculates they could shift their focus toward Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, claiming some in the Panthers’ front office are pushing for him. He still considers Panarin and Bobrovsky as their main targets.
As for the Mike Hoffman rumors leading up to the trade deadline, Richards said there was interest but no serious buyers. His future with the Panthers could depend upon what he wants to do moving forward, as he has one year remaining on his contract. It could also depend upon how much room they have next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Tallon will be among this summer’s busiest general managers in the free-agent and trade markets. There’s considerable disappointment over the Panthers’ inability to stage a breakthrough performance this season. With young stars like Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau emerging as elite players, Tallon and company don’t want to risk wasting their prime playing years. Landing Panarin and/or Bobrovsky could be just what they need to get over the hump and become a serious playoff contender.
Of their needs, goaltending is the biggest. They’re having no trouble scoring (currently sitting 10th among NHL clubs in that category) but they have the third-highest goals-against per game (3.36). If they can’t land Bobrovsky they’ll likely turn toward Varlamov, though his injury history and inconsistency makes him a big gamble. They could also look at Jimmy Howard if he doesn’t re-sign with the Detroit Red Wings or Robin Lehner if he fails to re-sign with the New York Islanders, but I doubt either guy will be available come July 1.
If free agency proves a bust, Tallon could go shopping for a trade. I doubt he’ll be able to land Crawford. The St. Louis Blues might be willing to part with Jake Allen, who might benefit from a change of scenery. If the Los Angeles Kings are looking to shed salary and feel confident in younger goalies Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen, maybe veteran starter Jonathan Quick could be a trade option.
LATEST ON THE CANUCKS
VANCOUVER SUN: With the playoffs now a long shot for the Canucks, Patrick Johnston believes GM Jim Benning should use the remainder of the season to focus on addressing the club’s shortcomings this summer. He expects Benning will chase after San Jose’s Erik Karlsson or Winnipeg’s Tyler Myers via free agency, or perhaps swing a trade or two, to bolster the defense. Johnston also noted Toronto’s Jake Gardiner will be without a contract this summer and speculates he could be available in a trade, though they don’t have many prospects to spare as trade chips. He also feels they have to bring in a top-line winger.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Benning is another GM I expect will be busy shopping around for experienced help this summer. With over $49 million tied up in 13 players, the Canucks have plenty of cap space to re-sign key free agents like Brock Boeser, Alexander Edler, and Ben Hutton and still bring in a quality player or two.
Benning, of course, must avoid a repeat of the disastrous Loui Eriksson signing. I doubt he’ll land Karlsson, though that would be quite a coup if he could pull that off. Myers is a possibility and so is Gardiner. If Benning were to deal for their rights before July 1, it would probably only cost him a conditional third- or fourth-round pick. Possible trade options on defense could include Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin, Ottawa’s Cody Ceci or Dallas’ Julius Honka.
As for forwards, Winnipeg’s Kevin Hayes, Boston’s Marcus Johansson, San Jose’s Gustav Nyquist, New York Islanders Anders Lee, and Nashville’s Wayne Simmonds are possible UFA options. The Canucks were also linked to Washington’s Andre Burakovsky in trade rumors earlier this season.