The Florida Panthers are still fighting for a playoff spot, sitting just one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild-card spot and two behind the Washington Capitals for the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a record of 27-23-6 and 60 points. They’ve made great progress, winning four of their last five games, but injury trouble has inflicted wounds on the Cats again this season.
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This summer, forward Anthony Duclair was placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) to repair a torn Achilles tendon suffered during the offseason. He was expected to return after the All-Star Break, and he has been skating with the team as of late, but with the recent news that forward Grigori Denisenko has been recalled from the Charlotte Checkers, the exact timetable for his return is still unknown.
Is Duclair Sitting Due to Cap Constraints?
The Panthers currently have no cap room to make any moves, and they have been using Duclair’s $3 million cap hit on LTIR to try and find someone to take on the load. Additionally, he is one of only two players on that ship – the other being forward Patric Hornqvist with a concussion. This is the main reason Denisenko was recalled to play in the lineup.
The Panthers could fix this issue by placing a forward on waivers or dealing someone with a big cap hit. However, breaking up the chemistry might not be wise, and players sent down or placed on the wire may not cover the cost of Duclair’s contract. Due to that, Duclair might be sitting out even further.
Maurice May Not Want to Rush Duclair’s Return
Duclair has been skating with the team over the past couple of months, but only recently did he stop wearing a non-contact jersey. Due to the severity of the injury, they may not want to rush him back, and there’s a mental process of getting back into the game, especially this late in the season.
It’s a mental step more than anything. He’s been pushing it for an awfully long time. This is a long healing injury. … He’s been battling. He’s been doing a lot of that lately. This is good for him just to get out on the ice.-Head coach Paul Maurice on the recovery period of forward Anthony Duclair
Maurice has stated that he “does not see” him playing on this road trip. But, of course, things can change in a heartbeat.
Is Duclair on the Trade Block?
Some rumours have suggested that Duclair is on the trading block. If the Panthers are entertaining the idea, they may be sitting him so that he stays healthy.
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Although it is extremely unlikely he will be shipped out, the idea is not farfetched. The Panthers are desperate for cap space and will only have him around for one more season after this one. It may be a hard decision, but it’s a potential step to get them out of the cap hell.
Panthers Eagerly Waid Duclair’s Return
Everyone is impatiently waiting for Duclair’s return. His speed and skill have been key to the team’s success since his arrival in 2021. He’s also been a huge community hero for South Florida.
The Cats are extremely fortunate to have a guy like Duclair on their roster. However, they may have to wait it out a little longer before he makes his triumphant return to the ice.