Florida Panthers Still Need Offense To Stay In Playoff Race


The Florida Panthers have been a team who the media has been speaking quite a bit about over the last week. Unfortunately, not in a positive way. On Friday night, defenseman Dmitry Kulikov made a questionable clipping hit on Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin where his injury will have him on injured reserve for 6-8 weeks. Kulikov will now be suspended for four games and sat out Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Blues.

Also, after forward Sean Bergenheim was made a healthy scratch for the four games by head coach Gerard Gallant, the unrestricted free agent after this season has requested to be traded.

"With 27 games to go in the NHL Regular Season for the Florida Panthers, they currently on this Monday afternoon on February 16th, sit three points behind the Boston Bruins for the last Eastern Conference Wild Card spot with 60 points."

The Philadelphia Flyers have also made things interesting in the race by going 6-1-3 in their last ten games and are now two points behind the Panthers with one more game played. Florida will embark on a five-game road trip starting Tuesday in Toronto. 15 of their final 22 games once they return to Florida are at home.

The Panthers also have three games remaining with the Bruins this season with two of them at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. Those games will likely be a huge factor in which team is in or out when the playoffs start. However, while their offense has improved over the last five weeks and they have moved up from 29th to 25th in the league in goals scored with 135 in 55 games, they need to show a more consistent offensive effort in every game.

After a stretch of eight games from January 13th to February 2nd where the Panthers only earned three points out of a possible sixteen, they have gone 3-2-2 over the last seven games. They scored fifteen goals in their first four games of that set, but only two goals in their last three games, which resulted in a 0-2-1 record. The two regulation losses were on back-to-back nights on the road in Minnesota against the Wild and in Dallas against the Stars. The Panthers did earn a hard-fought point against the St. Louis Blues at home on Sunday evening, but lost in the shootout to a red hot Brian Elliot in net.

Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers /

Florida Panthers

This was while the Bruins have lost their last three games in regulation and the Panthers could not take advantage of that. Had the Panthers won in those two regulation losses, they would be tied with the Bruins in games played and would be one point ahead of them in the standings. A thought that has frustrated many Panthers fans this past week.

With the trade deadline coming in just two weeks on March 2nd, general manager Dale Tallon is likely considering options for to improve the offense on the Panthers. Despite having an rollercoaster record over the last month or so, they are still in decent position being three points out of the last Wild Card spot. The question is, will Tallon have to move some young stars of the future in order to acquire such a player?

Rumored reports are being thrown around from sources such as TSN and theScore that Tallon is very interested in Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel. The Leafs have stated that they have gone into “rebuild mode” after making a large trade with the Nashville Predators on Sunday which sent forward Mike Santorelli and defenseman Cody Franson to the Music City for Nashville’s first-round pick, prospect forward Brendan Leipsic, and veteran forward Olli Jokinen.

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However, Tallon is not very willing to give up players such as forwards Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, or Jonathan Huberdeau as well as defenseman Aaron Ekblad in return. You can bet that the Leafs are going to certainly want a key piece as upcoming players within the Panthers system such as forwards Rocco Grimaldi or Vincent Trocheck and defensemen such as Alex Petrovic or Mike Matheson will not be close to enough even together as a package.

Kessel would arguably be exactly what the Panthers need to cure their offense as he is on pace for about 65 points this season, but has shown that he is a point per game player in the past three seasons. Most would have to understand Tallon’s reasoning of being reluctant to deal any of those players above as they all have high expectations ahead of them and are still extremely young in their careers.

Nevertheless, Tallon should be focusing on acquiring offensive talent that will provide scoring for the team for years to come. Many fans are on-board for getting a player such as veteran forward Jaromir Jagr for example. His current 29 points would right now be fourth on the Panthers. Would he be able to help the team offensively to push for a playoff spot if he’s acquired? Absolutely. However, with him being 43 years-old, he would not be a long-term player that can fit into the Panthers young core to build themselves into a Stanley Cup Champion down the line. Unless, he miraculously wants to play into his mid-late 40s and can still put up good numbers.

There are other forward options out there such as Carolina Hurricanes Jiri Tlusty, Edmonton Oilers Jordan Eberle, and Arizona Coyotes Antoine Vermette. To a lesser extent, maybe Tallon will try to pursue Colorado Avalanche Ryan O’Reilly or St. Louis Blues T.J. Oshie. Of course, the sooner a trade is made, the better for the Panthers playoff hopes, but one can imagine that Tallon isn’t making a move until he is completely satisfied with the return.

There is a chance that he could stay put with just making minor moves as it has been said publicly that forward Sean Bergenheim will be traded and there are at least five teams interested in him. Could that possibly be part of a package that includes a veteran top-line scorer? Time will tell. For now, with the Panthers three points out of the Wild Card in the Eastern Conference, one can’t help but be prepared to buckle up and enjoy the ride over the next two months. As bumpy as it may be.

Next: Florida Panthers Unrestricted Free Agents: Decisions, Decisions