In one of the biggest and arguably most surprising trades on deadline day, the Florida Panthers sent Vincent Trocheck to the Carolina Hurricanes for a package headlined by Lucas Wallmark and Erik Haula.
Trocheck should immediately jump into the Hurricanes’ top six as the second-line center. He’s tallied 10 goals and 36 points in 55 games this season. The 26-year-old also recorded a 52.7 Corsi percentage during 5-on-5 play this season, one of the best on the team.
The package heading back to Florida features Haula and Wallmark, who should both establish themselves in the Panthers’ middle-six. Eetu Luostarinen and Chase Priskie will head from the American Hockey League (AHL) Charlotte Checkers to Florida’s AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds.
Panthers Retool Lineup Ahead of Playoff Push
Usually, dealing one of your top forwards just hours before the trade deadline is a sign of a team ready to sell-off the season. However, this trade suggests that the Panthers are actually trying to shake up the roster while still competing for this postseason.
The Panthers currently sit two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division but have a game in-hand. They’re 2-2-0 on their current road trip that concludes in Arizona on Tuesday before a five-game homestand.
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This trade sends a message to the team that, if they miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, more changes could be coming quickly.
Over the last two seasons, Trocheck has totaled 20 goals and 70 points in 110 games. However, the Pittsburgh native racked up 31 goals and 75 points during a breakout 2017-18 campaign; the Hurricanes are banking on that version of Trocheck for the next three seasons.
Haula put his name on the map during the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural 2017-18 campaign, scoring 29 goals and 55 points. Since then, he’s dealt with a handful of injuries; the Finnish forward suited up for just 15 games last season and has 22 points in 41 games this season.
The Panthers most likely see Wallmark as the most important piece of this deal. The 24-year-old Swede notched 10 goals and 28 points in his first full NHL season (2018-19), and has 11 goals in 60 games this season. He was a fourth-round pick in 2014 and scored over 90 points in two AHL campaigns.
Wallmark has recorded a 51.8 Corsi percentage and 52 expected goals-for percentage during 5-on-5 play this season. He’s a strong playmaker and could pan out as a top-six center with the Panthers. He’s also a contributor on both specials teams, while Haula is expected to pitch in on the power play.
As mentioned, both prospects in the deal — Luostarinen and Priskie — should spend the rest of the season with AHL Springfield. Luostarinen was a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and tallied 25 points in 44 games with the Checkers this season. During the 2018-19 season, the Finnish forward scored an impressive 36 points in 54 games in the SM-liiga at 20 years old.
Priskie is a South Florida native that enjoyed a solid four-year collegiate career with Quinnipiac. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award as a senior after racking up 17 goals and 39 points in 36 games. The 23-year-old blueliner has 31 points in 52 AHL games this season and has a good chance at forcing his way on to the NHL roster next season.
What’s Next for the Panthers?
Shortly after the trade was announced, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun noted that the Panthers were still looking to bolster their defensive group:
The team is still pressed right up against the cap ceiling, so making a big splash won’t be easy. However, Haula’s $2.75 million deal expires at the end of this season, while the Hurricanes will be paying Trocheck $4.75 million through the 2021-22 campaign.
Wallmark will be a restricted free agent this offseason, along with a handful of other young Panthers forwards; he’ll almost certainly re-sign with Florida this offseason. Assuming Haula clicks with his new team, the Panthers may look to extend him before he has a chance to test the open market.
Between Mike Hoffman, Evgeni Dadonov, and Mark Pysyk, the Panthers will have roughly $12 million available this offseason to re-sign some skaters or look to free agency for some defensive help.
Overall, this seems like a deal that makes sense for both teams. Carolina is ready to compete for a Stanley Cup over the next few seasons and Trocheck should be a major contributor along the way. Meanwhile, the Panthers, who appear to be stuck in the middle of the pack yet again, get some new pieces to plug in the lineup.
Tyler Bowen is a University of South Florida graduate and lifelong hockey fan. Tyler covers the Pittsburgh Penguins for thehockeywriters.com. You can usually find him obsessing over his fantasy teams and looking for his next gambling tip.