With a 7-16-6 record and 11 points out of a playoff spot, it’s safe to assume that the Florida Panthers may be leaning toward being sellers as the April 3rd deadline approaches. Sadly, a plethora of injuries have robbed the Panthers’ of their three best trade assets – Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Jose Theodore.
However, even with their best pieces no longer a part of the equation, don’t expect the Panthers to be quiet on the trade market. The Panthers still have several serviceable players that any playoff bound team would love to add to their roster in hopes of tipping the scales come May.
Listed below are several Panthers’ forwards and why they may or may not be moved before the deadline.
Heading into restricted free agency next season, forward Jack Skille could add some energy and talent to any team looking to strengthen their 3rd line heading into the playoffs. In recent games and throughout most of the season, Skille has been a force to be reckoned, both at even strength and on the penalty kill.
In 27 games this season, Skille has compiled 10 points (3G 7A) – including 5 points in his last 6 games alone. Clearly a player like Skille could be an important part of the Panthers’ future as a solid 3rd line skater, but the team could be persuaded to move him if the right offer is presented.
Although Skille has been a project for General Manager Dale Tallon since he originally drafted the young skater back in 2005, the time may have finally come for Tallon and Skille to part ways.
Since arriving in South Florida this offseason, forward Peter Mueller has revitalized his own career as well as becoming one of the most popular Panther players. However, even though he has been an pleasant surprise for the team, Mueller’s expiring contract could have the Panthers shopping him around the NHL at the trade deadline.
In 29 games this season, Mueller has compiled 12 points (6G 6A) while playing on the team’s youthful top scoring line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Drew Shore. At 24-years-old, Mueller could easily fit into the Panthers long-term rebuilding plans, but only if the price is right. However, if the Panthers decide that keeping Mueller won’t be affordable then the team will be looking to trade him while his value is still high.
Considering how well he has played alongside fellow youngsters Drew Shore and Jonathan Huberdeau, it may benefit the Panthers to keep Mueller around to give the team some sense of consistency. Even if they do find a suitable replacement talent wise, replacing Mueller’s chemistry with fellow skaters may be hard to do.
Although Tomas Fleischmann has been a reliable winger for the Panthers since his arrival last season, his expensive contract could make him available as the trade deadline approaches. A player with Fleischmann’s offensive skillset should fetch a nice return from a team like the Ottawa Senators or Nashville Predators – both of which are desperate for offense. Considering how many problems the Panthers have they might want to use Fleischmann’s $4.5 million cap hit to help the team in other areas.
In 29 games this season, Tomas Fleischmann has compiled 18 points (5G 13A) while being one of the offensive leaders on the roster. Considering that both Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg were limited to very few games this season, it’s amazing how well Fleischmann has done without his former linemates.
The one red flag for the Panthers as they look to move Fleischmann is their weakness at the left wing position. Entering the 2013-2014 season, the Panthers will only have Jonathan Huberdeau, Sean Bergenheim and Quinton Howden as potential starting left wingers – a scary thought for the Panthers’ offense.
During the Panthers’ most recent losing streak, forward Shawn Matthias has been one of the only bright spots on mostly dreary nights. Although his standout play hasn’t resulted in wins for the Panthers, his amazing goals have brought the Panthers into the national spotlight.
In 29 games this season, Shawn Matthias has recorded 10 points (8G 2A) including 3 goals in his last 5 games alone. His recent play along with that of Jack Skille have been commendable even during the team’s most tumultuous games.
Considering how well Matthias has been playing lately and how much publicity his recent exploits have earned him, justifying a Matthias trade may be a tough pill for the Panthers’ fan base to swallow. However, when you take a closer look, Matthias is actually one of the more expendable players on the roster. The Panthers have incredible depth at the center position with a bevy of talented young skaters blossoming at different competitive levels.
Although a player like Matthias has definitely proven his value to the team, the Panthers may benefit more from moving him while he’s hot and using the return to help the team in other areas.
Since returning from an injury earlier this season, Marcel Goc has proven himself to be a valuable two-way forward on a team that lacks consistent back checking. A player with Goc’s numerous skills will be of great value to any team looking to add a quality center.
Through 23 games this season, Marcel Goc has scored 10 points (3G 7A) while centering multiple lines as the Panthers’ battle through numerous injuries. Although the Panthers’ could fetch a quality return for Goc on the open market, a player as versatile as he is may be more valuable if kept.
Like Shawn Matthias, Goc’s future may depend on how much faith the Panthers have in their future centers. However, unlike Matthias, Goc has a favorable $1.7 million cap hit next season that may keep him on the team heading into next year. In my opinion, Goc should be kept not only because of his contract and skillset, but aslo as a quality backup plan if future centers are not ready for NHL play next season.
The Florida Panthers are poised to be very active as the April 3rd trade deadline approaches, but have also stated that they will not trade quality players for band-aid fixes. This means that the team will most likely be looking for quality young players or draft picks that may fit into the team’s long term rebuilding process that is already well underway.
All of the players listed above may very well remain with the team if ownership decides that they have a place in the team’s long-term plans. However, given how horribly this season has gone already I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of these five players is moved in favor of other pieces. No matter what happens, given his impressive track record I have full faith that General Manager Dale Tallon will make the best moves possible in order to set the Panthers up for success next season and beyond.
Thanks for reading and please share your own thoughts on what you would like to see the Panthers do at the trade deadline in the comments section below!
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