With the trade deadline looming, the Florida Panthers will need to make some franchise-changing decisions before March 5th, as their team is currently built for anything but long-term success. Going into the 2013-14 season, the Panthers’ general manager Dale Tallon built this team with hopes of making the playoffs. However, the Cats currently sit in seventh place in the Atlantic division, are ninth in the wild card race, and do not seem to be improving by any means. Having said that, the Panthers chances at the playoffs are slim to none, and the organization will need to make some moves to improve the team on a long term basis.
The most pressing question is what do the Panthers need, and the answer to that is simply everything. Their prized-possession Jonathan Huberdeau has been completely ineffective this season, which is a major reason for their current troubles. Along with Huberdeau, the Cats have a solid collection of young players in Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Erik Grudbranson, Dylan Olsen and Dmitry Kulikov. While there have been rumours circling about Tallon’s desire to move the young Russian defenseman, Kulikov recently discussed his desire to stay in the NHL and play for the Panthers. “…I want to help turn things around here. I want to win here. The year we made the playoffs was like the best thing ever. It’s a totally different feeling. I want to feel that again… My dream since I as a kid was playing here. I’m living the dream.”
With that said, if the Panthers decide to move some of their veteran players to contending teams, the younger guys will need to use the second part of the season to step up their game. Their success is essential to the team’s future, and there will be very little for the Panthers to fall back on if they continue to under-perform. To increase their collection of young talent, the Panthers should use the NHL trade deadline to attain draft picks and other young player who could increase their chance at future success.
Here are some of the players who the Panthers should consider moving before the NHL trade deadline, as they could help a team make a push for the playoffs or help a contender have that extra edge come postseason.
Boyes is a solid commodity because he adds solid skill and depth scoring on the wing. He has had some success this season, but has been on and off for the most part. In 56 games, Boyes has scored 15 goals and 11 assists but provides a reliable defensive game. He is definitely a top-six forward and could be a great addition to any team looking to increase their offensive production.
Potential teams: Washington Capitals, Phoenix Coyotes, Winnipeg Jets, Los Angeles Kings
Goc is a good center but is more of a two-way player with the ability to score. Playing in Florida has not been the best option for him as he is called upon to fill a much larger role. On a more successful team, Goc would have the luxury of player on a third line, maintain a defensive role and bring some offense to any team’s checking line.
Potential teams: Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks, Montreal Canadiens
Let’s be honest, on the open market, Gomez does not ooze commodity. However, on a young team making a run for the playoffs, his experience and leadership in a third or fourth line role could be a solid difference maker in term of depth. His value would garner a late round pick, or a unproven prospect at best, but getting rid of dead weight is always a good thing, and there should be some teams willing to take him on for the rest of the season.
Potential teams: Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild
Gilbert has had a solid season so far, scoring 25 points in 58 games. His contract is up at the end of the season and could be a solid depth addition on several teams. The Panthers have quite a balance of youth and experienced players on the roster which makes Gilbert a very movable commodity.
Potential teams: Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Panthers have two young and inexperienced goalies playing in the AHL. Both Jacob Marktsrom and Michael Houser should see some NHL time before the season ends. While Markstrom has proved very little, he come with a lot of potential and is one of the team’s best prospects. On the other hand, Houser has performed quite well for the San Antonio Rampage and could provide some healthy competition for the the struggling Markstrom.
Thomas is probably the best trading commodity given the Panthers needs and position in the standings. He has been pretty good this season but has had very little support from his team. On the right team, Thomas could be a game changer for several teams in a position to make the playoffs, whether starting full-time or splitting starts. Thomas’ future in the NHL is uncertain, but with an expiring contract, he is the perfect purchase for a playoff run this year.
Potential teams: Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders (past this season)
Clemmensen has been a back-up for most of his career but has been solid when called upon. Several teams have reliable starters, but could use a reliable player to take on some starts to give their number one a break. His contract is also up at the end of the season and it is likely that the Panthers will not require his services any longer.