The Florida Panthers are having arguably their best season in franchise history. They are currently 1st in the entire NHL with a record of 32-9-5 with 69 points through 46 games. This is in large part due to their cup contender offense, led by forward Jonathan Huberdeau and captain Aleksander Barkov. This includes their abundance of depth they have at forward that have become heroes in big moments. However, they also have players that have been scratched and could be on their way out. A perfect example has been Frank Vatrano, who has been the center of trade rumors for Florida since the offseason. With Florida looking at options to upgrade their defense, he might be part of a potential deal.
Vatrano’s Campaign So Far
Vatrano’s 2021-22 season has not been great to him. He’s piled up only 14 points (eight goals, six assists) and a minus-5 rating through 40 games. In his last 10 appearances, he only tallied two total assists. In addition, he’s been a healthy scratch multiple times this season and has had his spot being taken by other forwards that have outperformed him this season.
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Furthermore, Vatrano is on the last year of his three-year, $2.53 million per year deal. With some players that are due for deals of their own, “Frank the Tank” could see himself as the odd man out in this scenario.
Where Would he Go?
For a lot of players, a change of scenery can normally get them back into the swing of their good playing abilities. It worked out very well when Vatrano was traded from the Boston Bruins to the Panthers. But with the needs of Florida, he could be dealt to a few places
The Arizona Coyotes are arguably one of the worst teams in the league offensively as they rank dead last in the league in goals per game with 2.18 goals a game. In addition, they’re second to last in goals scored overall with 96. The Coyotes could use Vatrano’s offensive shot and physical style to fuel their offense.
In addition, Florida has shown interest in Arizona defenseman Jakob Chychrun, who is also a South Florida native. With that in place, a deal could be packaged with Vatrano in order to get the Cats a great defensive piece in Chychrun.
Much like Arizona, the Montreal Canadiens have one of the worst offenses in the NHL, ranking second-to-last in goals per game with 2.23 and 30th in total goals with 98, only two more than the Coyotes. Florida could use Vatrano’s skillset to boost their offense and give them someone who can shoot the puck.
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Additionally, the Habs also have an asset the Panthers have shown interest in with their defenseman in Ben Chiarot. With a potential rebuild coming in Quebec, they could use him to get their hands on Chiarot and fix Montreal’s offensive in a simple trade.
With rumors of the Panthers wanting to package him in their trade for forward Sam Reinhart this past offseason with the Buffalo Sabres, Florida may look to send him there again this next offseason. Much like Arizona and Montreal, the Sabres have a struggling offense that ranks 26th in goals per game with 2.56. They could use him to get some picks for next year’s draft as they gave their first-round selection to them and have been trade partners for a few years.
Much like Buffalo, rumblings were heard about Florida potentially making a side deal to send Vatrano to the Seattle Kraken to get an extra protection slot for themselves during the expansion draft. The Kraken, much like Buffalo, Montreal, and Arizona, need some work offensively as they rank 25th in goals a game with 2.60. Florida and Seattle have a good relationship with one another as they share the same AHL affiliate in the Charlotte Checkers, so a potential deal between the two would not be too farfetched. That deal could become a reality simply for the sake of picks to get a better leg up in the upcoming draft.
Are Vatrano’s Days Numbered?
As previously mentioned, the Panthers could use some help on defense and may want to find themselves a way to get back into the draft. General manager Bill Zito have done everything he can to build a successful franchise in only his second year. With potential interest in candidates from other teams, and an abundance of forwards, this is a no-brainer. Florida could wind up with a missing piece for a big playoff run, and it’s up to Zito to pull the trigger on the move.