With the NHL trade deadline inching closer, the Florida Panthers are open to listening to offers for their right-winger, Mike Hoffman, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. The 30-year-old winger has just scored his 20th goal of the season, making this the sixth consecutive season he’s hit the 20-goal mark.
Florida, currently fighting for a playoff spot, will be trying to make their first postseason appearance since 2016, when they lost to the New York Islanders in the first round. The good news for the Panthers right now is that the division rival Toronto Maple Leafs are dealing with injuries to their defense and starting goaltender Frederik Andersen, making the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division a possibility for Florida.
Should the Panthers Keep Hoffman for the Rest of the Season?
The Panthers, currently sitting one point behind Toronto but having played two fewer games, would be unlikely to ship off Hoffman without getting a significant return, especially one that wouldn’t put this season’s playoff push in jeopardy.
Hoffman, currently with a $5.1875 million cap hit, will most likely be getting a raise for his next contract, being a consistent 20-plus goalscorer in the league as well as being a threat on the power play with a strong shot. This puts Florida in a situation where they will look to see if they receive an offer for Hoffman they like, but with them currently sitting in a playoff position at the moment, trading him maybe isn’t ideal.
“There are multiple teams calling the Florida Panthers about forward Mike Hoffman,” said Pierre Lebrun on TSN’s Insider Trading. “The team asked for his 10-team no-trade list (which was submitted) in late December. Not likely the team is shopping him.”
Florida’s front office also has to keep in mind their cap situation, knowing that Evgenii Dadonov’s contract also ends after this season, making him an unrestricted free agent. It will be difficult to re-sign both Dadonov and Hoffman, knowing that Vincent Trocheck’s and Aleksander Barkov’s contracts both expire before the 2021-22 season and Jonathan Huberdeau’s a year after that.
Last season we saw the Columbus Blue Jackets take a gamble at keeping unrestricted free agents and also acquiring rentals, realizing that it was likely they would leave via free agency. However, it worked out in their favor, winning their first-ever playoff series despite losing many of those players the following offseason.
What is GM Dale Tallon looking to Improve?
In regards to adding players to improve the team, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon is looking to strengthen his blue line before the trade deadline, scouting the market for an experienced defenseman to play alongside Aaron Ekblad. Tallon spoke to Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com about his team’s needs:
“I’d like to acquire a veteran D if I could to play with Ekblad and settle things down a bit back there,” Tallon said. “We need to be more consistent on the blue line.”
The Panthers already have big names on their blue line and are considering sacrificing some offense for defense if that’s what it takes to move forward. Having Ekblad, Anton Stralman, and Keith Yandle, you can always improve it and have a strong defense like many of the successful teams right now in the NHL.
“Everybody’s got a chance. And that’s the hard part. Moving forward, you ask yourself if there are any hockey deals out there,” Tallon said. “That’s what you have to figure out. Most everybody is probably cap-stressed and not sure what to do about that. Rent-a-player deals, well, sometimes we’ve seen those just don’t work. So you have to be careful what you are going to give up.”
The Panthers have a great lineup and no problems scoring goals, so improving their defense will definitely benefit their team all around, specifically taking some pressure off Sergei Bobrovsky as they’re one of the teams that give up the most shots in the league.
Potential Defenseman to Acquire?
A potential defenseman the Panthers might be interested in is the Los Angeles Kings’ Alec Martinez. The Kings are sellers at the moment, having already shipped off Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell, and they might not be done with trades as Tyler Toffoli and Martinez’s names have been swirling around the latest trade rumors.
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman and former Calder Trophy finalist Shayne Gostisbehere would also be a great fit – having a left-handed shot would make it ideal to play alongside Ekblad or Stralman, and, not to mention, he’s a local Florida native. Other defensemen in the trade deadline rumors include Brenden Dillon, Matt Dumba, and Sami Vatanen.
Florida has great depth on their offense with players already in their mid-20’s with the likes of Barkov, Trocheck, and Huberdeau, who produce scoring in different ways. The Panthers as well have good young prospects in their system like Owen Tippett, who currently has 40 points in 46 games for the Springfield Thunderbirds in the American Hockey League.
It will be interesting if Florida makes a move before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, knowing their current expectations is making a postseason appearance with last offseason’s acquisitions.