Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Panthers: For Present And Future, Pick Must Be Traded

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Draft day is upon us, and still we have no better idea of who the Florida Panthers might take with the pick, or who will even make the first pick of the draft for that matter.

Apparently Dale Tallon went to bed last night with a ‘major’ trade offer on the table, and will decide upon whether to accept it or not today.

It seems that teams that were originally in for the running for the first overall pick are no longer in it, as the Toronto Maple Leafs – once thought as the front runners – seem content at selecting eighth.

A potential trade with the Vancouver Canucks appears to be the most realistic offer out there right now, especially in a year with no clear cut favorite at the top of the rankings. Had it been last year, the Panthers could have held the pick for a king’s ransom, but this year is different.

What the Panthers can hold ransom, and currently are, is the fact that everybody appears to be calling in for the right to draft Aaron Ekblad. The big rugged defenseman for the Barrie Colts was granted exceptional status at the junior level, allowing him to start his career in the OHL a year early.

Now in his draft season, Ekblad may be able to give the team that drafts him the best combination of ‘now’ and ‘future’ assistance, making him an ideal pick for the Panthers – who after trading for 35-year old Roberto Luongo look to want to win closer to now than later.

But with all the talk about how the Panthers are ‘set’ at center with Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad at others, some forget about some of the defensive prospects that they have in the system who are just a few years away from contributing.

Led Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov and Dylan Olsen, the Panthers also have players like Ian McCoshen, Mike Matheson and MacKensie Weegar still awaiting their opportunities in the NHL.

While I have never been a component of drafting by ‘need’, especially a team in the Panthers position whose needs are far and beyond one player at one particular position – there is a way to get better and still draft a positional ‘need’.

Trading the first overall pick is a need for the team, both for the immediate and long-term success of the franchise. This draft class won’t yield a return that will make you salivate, but any return where you can get multiple contributing pieces nets you a win.

Tallon is doing the smart thing by taking his time, thinking it over carefully, any general manager who doesn’t wait as long as possible to make a decision on the first overall pick is foolish. As long as he keeps his cool, the longer he waits the more likely a team will come out of left field with an offer.

With McCoshen, Matheson, and Weegar not going to see NHL action this year, the Panthers need a veteran defender to bring them along when they do get here, as well as play top minutes before they do.

They also need scoring, a lot of it. Someone who can play on wing of either Bjugstad or Barkov for the future years to come. That player is waiting to hear his name called at the draft, just not with the first overall pick.

Tallon built a winner in Chicago through the draft, so Florida fans should have faith in what he does tonight. But for a team as bad as the Panthers, they need a trade. Maybe more than other teams need Ekblad. Make it a win-win for everyone involved and make the trade.

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Tags: 2014 NHL Draft Aaron Ekblad Dale Tallon Florida Panthers Nhl Draft

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