Nick Bjugstad has been mentioned in trade rumors in the past, but does trading the 25-year-old winger make sense at this time?
To make it clear, I remain on both sides of the fence in regards to Nick Bjugstad. On one hand, I’m open to trading him in the right deal for the right player, but on the other hand, I recognize that he’s a good player to have when you pair him with the proper linemates.
As we all know, the Atlantic Division has gotten stronger. You take a look at Toronto in particular and you see a lineup with a jaw-dropping offense.
Tampa Bay? Very similar, or if not, just on par with the Leafs. How about the Boston Bruins? A team the Florida Panthers could very well battle with for the 3rd spot in the Atlantic, and a team the Cats have historically struggled against.
With all of those factors considered, would it really make sense to part ways with Nick Bjugstad? Answer: it depends!
At this point in time, the Panthers aren’t in a situation where they need to rebuild and trade pieces for whatever they can get. Instead, they’re at a stage now that they need to continue building, hanging onto pieces that can help them both in the present and in the future.
Throwing Bjugstad away for a couple of picks would defeat the purpose, and wouldn’t make the Panthers any better of a team.
From what we saw from Big Nick during the 2017-18 campaign, we saw a player who just needed a chance in a top-six role.
The soon-to-be 26-year-old recorded 49 points (19G, 30A) in 82 games played, enjoying his first full season as a Panther.
Historically, Nick has had issues remaining healthy, suffering several injuries throughout his career. Not only was it his first season appearing in all 82 games, but it was also a career-year in terms of assists (39) and points (49).
According to naturalstattrick.com, Nick ranked 2nd among all Panther players in 5v5 goals with 18 by his name, while also placing 2nd in both points per 60 minutes (P/60) (2.18) and primary points per 60 minutes (P1/60) (1.85).
Additionally, as the season progressed, Bjugstad also bumped his CF% (Corsi For Percentage) to 51.91%, ranking 4th on the team.
These numbers are further proof that when you set Nick Bjugstad up for success, he’ll run away with the opportunity.
Considering what he went through during the first half of the year – struggling to get going on the third line centered by Jared McCann – these numbers are a positive reflection of what’s in store for Big Nick.
Nick isn’t a player who can carry an entire line in production or play, which is why he needs to play in a top-six role with a skilled centerman/winger by his side.
He just isn’t skilled enough to center or even carry a line on his own, which became evident during the experiments in the past. But what we do know is that Bjugstad is a good passenger player who can feed off from dominant players like Barkov, Trocheck, and Huberdeau.
Now with his trade value currently up, would it make sense for the Cats to part ways with the American-born forward?
The answer to this question all depends on what you’ll be receiving in return. If the Panthers were shopping Bjugstad – which they have in the past – it would make sense to package him with assets and picks to receive a greater return.
Bjugstad’s still a serviceable player who can pot 20-25 goals a season, which is something the Panthers needs more of, not less.
As I mentioned earlier, the Atlantic has gotten stronger, and it’s improved more so on the offensive end.
For the Panthers to compete with high-scoring teams like Toronto and Tampa, they’ll have to have other players who can score aside from the aforementioned Barkov, Trocheck, and Huberdeau. And that’s where Big Nick will come in!
Unless a player like Panarin is coming here in return, the Panthers are better off keeping Nick Bjugstad in Sunrise, Florida. From what we saw last season, Nick still has it in him to contribute in a top-six role. With three years remaining on his contract and with an affordable term, the Cats are better off keeping Bjugstad for the 2018-19 campaign.