Although we’re just two months into the season, the trade deadline is already less than a month away. Where does each team stand and what moves should they be looking to make? We continue our look around the league with the Florida Panthers.
The Florida Panthers are in an unusual position. Usually a team that is either standing pat or selling, the team has taken a whole new level under head coach Joel Quenneville, becoming a dominant team in the East as they sit just two points behind first-place Tampa Bay with the Carolina Hurricanes just one point behind them. However, no other team is particularly close behind those three teams, practically guaranteeing them a playoff spot. The question is, however, can they get out of the East?
20-6-4, 44 points, 2nd in Central Division
Deadline Cap Space
$8.48MM in full-season space ($15.98MM at the trade deadline), 1/3 retention slots used, 45/50 contracts used per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2021: FLR 1st, FLR 2nd, FLR 3rd, FLR 4th, FLR 5th, FLR 6th, FLR 7th, WIN 7th
2022: FLR 1st, FLR 2nd, FLR 3rd, FLR 4th, FLR 5th, FLR 6th, FLR 7th
The Panthers best asset is someone who isn’t even signed to a contract. The team let forward Henrik Borgstrom leave for the Liiga this offseason, but still retain the restricted free agent’s rights. The once-highly touted prospect has struggled in the Panthers organization despite his incredible success in two years at the University of Denver. Borgstrom played in 50 games for Florida during the 2018-19 season, playing mostly a third-line role, scoring eight goals and 18 points. The belief last year was that Borgstrom would move up into the lineup and improve on those numbers. Instead, he spent most of the season with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL, where he struggled and was rumored to be unhappy with his role. Regardless, he is still a player that has value and could be a valuable chip for a rebuilding team that could use a player that could immediately step into an NHL lineup. With HIFK Helsinki in the Liiga, the 23-year-old Borgstrom has 11 goals and 19 points in 27 games.
Florida also has a full complement of draft picks over the next two years, another way to pry a veteran player loose from selling teams. The team has drafted in the late lottery in the past few years, but now will be drafting much later. That makes those picks much more tradeable with many teams eager to get their hands on any first-rounder.
1) Top-Six Forward – The Panthers have been quite successful this season and have done it with a number of players who normally wouldn’t have been considered top-six players a year ago, including Patric Hornqvist and Alexander Wennberg. The team could use a big boost if they could add a significant piece to their top-six, which would allow either Hornqvist or Wennberg to move a line back and fortify the team’s depth. The team could definitely use more experience up front, pushing one of those two down to the third line. Of course, Hornqvist has been thriving this year with 11 goals and 24 points in 30 games, suggesting the team might be better off looking to add a center instead, but the team could certainly look to add more offense, no matter what it adds.
2) Top-Four Defenseman – The Panthers might want to make a play for a top-four defenseman who can play next to Aaron Ekblad. There are rumors that the team is looking at young players like Vince Dunn and Dante Fabbro as potential long-term pieces to the franchise. Florida does have a significant number of prospects, if they are willing to move them, to acquire a core piece and give the team extra defensive depth, even if they are 11th in the NHL in goals allowed.