The yearly push for the playoffs has come again for the Florida Panthers, but this year is different than almost every other. For the first time since 2000, the Panthers are right in the thick of the playoff hunt and could quite possibly snag a postseason spot. Better yet, the Panthers have a golden opportunity to snatch first place in the Southeast Division. Such an event would be incredible seeing where the team was this time last season.
But as I say this, I know the Panthers are an incomplete team. The fruitful production from the FlashMob Line is dwindling, the injuries at every position are taking their toll, and offense in general is struggling. Fans and players can sense that this is the time for the team’s General Manager to step up and deal for some late-season assistance. An available top-six forward would be the best case scenario for Dale Tallon and the Panthers to bolster offense and depth.
However, the only problem is that these sorts of deals could be costly, to the point of unreasonableness. Players like Brendan Morrow, Tuomo Ruutu, and Bobby Ryan could all be dangled come February 27. As much as the Panthers could use a physical, offensively gifted forward, the asking price in return could defeat the purpose of making the trade. Consider what we’d have to give up to acquire a Morrow or Ryan.
The closest approximation we fans have to extrapolating a return for a trade would be to look at other trades in history. Power forwards like the ones above remind many experts of a trade last year between the Oilers and Kings. Edmonton sent Penner to LA for a 2011 first round pick, conditional 2012 second round pick, and talented prospect Colten Teubert. An easy way of saying it is that the Kings gave up a heck of a lot for just one player at the trading deadline. It is also a reminder of what can go wrong in one of these deals: Penner had only six points in 19 games for the Kings last year, and only has eleven points in 38 games for LA this year.
So think of what Dale Tallon and the Panthers would have to part with to make this deal go down. One could argue easily that Morrow, Ruutu, or Ryan are all better than Penner. So you’re looking at a first and second/third round pick, along with a prospect like Erik Gudbranson or Quinton Howden, for one player to use for half a year. Plus, some of these teams (Anaheim, New Jersey, Dallas) are not necessarily out of the playoff hunt, and would like a good substitute to come back in a trade. So instead of a prospect, the Panthers could have to part ways with a Stephen Weiss or a Dmitry Kulikov or a Mike Weaver. The price is steep, and even though it should go down as the deadline approaches, it doesn’t fit Tallon’s blueprint. Florida’s management team wants to keep our prospects around if they could help it, and dealing our key players would just make the trade a wash.
Does this mean we shouldn’t make some sort of deal? Not at all. In fact, I encourage some sort of deal. With Kulikov and Ed Jovanovski out with injuries for multiple weeks, the Panthers could go looking for a solid defenseman as a replacement. Hal Gill is available in Montreal, and Milan Jurcina could be a good pickup from the Islanders. And the best news, it would be cheap as dirt to acquire those players. Think a full-time AHLer or fourth round pick. It would be well worth it to pick one of these players up to shore up the blue line.
I don’t see any reason to trade for a goalie since that is our only position with real depth, and no other top six forwards are available for Florida to inquire about. I’m all for a deadline deal, but the Panthers would be best served to make only small additions. Unless the Panthers want to break the bank or surrender some of our top prospects, I would advise for Dale Tallon to stay cool about any drastic roster moves.
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