With the transfer deadline looming just over the horizon, the rumor mill is gearing up for overdrive as March 4th is rapidly approaching. Panthers and its GM Jacques Martin were active last year; making a couple of deadline deals with Toronto for Wade Belak and Chad Kilger.
Not the best moves as things turned out (and that’s putting it mildly). However, the swap deal with Colorado was a stroke of brilliance; receiving Karlis Skrastins for Ruslan Salei.
Who will it be this year?
Florida are expected to be active again this trade deadline with Jay Bouwmeester’s contract still not having been renewed and Jacques expressing a real interest in getting a top six centerman on several occasions. So, it is fair to raise the question and although no one will say anything publicly; we can speculate a little and indeed look at those players that have been linked with the Cats by different sources.
The Fourth Period has assembled a Top 25 of available players and teams interested in their services. Let’s look at those players being linked with the Panthers and those that aren’t but probably ought to be…
Panthers to be linked with a trade deadline exit
Jay Bouwmeester (Cap Hit = $4.8 million), TFP Rank #3
Well of course his name is here! It’s been speculated since day one of the season that he’s unhappy and won’t sign an extension to his contract with the Cats. Whatever the truth is to these rumors he’s ranked at #3 overall by TFP and no less than 9 teams have been linked with an interest in his services: Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Ottawa, Edmonton, Dallas, Washington, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
The list of admirers is long, but his greatest aficionado is perhaps Florida Head Coach Pete DeBoer, who’d love to keep Bo, but admits it is a question for the General Manager to resolve and not him. As long as there is a ray of hope that he might sign a new deal however, Jay won’t be going anywhere.
If there is no such hope on the other hand, Jacques Martin will certainly look at whatever offers come in and see if any of them blows him away or not. It would have to be significant offer for him to give up a player of Bouwmeester’s caliber; especially when the Panthers are battling it out for a first playoff appearance in 9 years!
Apart from Jay though, no other Panthers have been linked recently with a trade. If Martin pulls the trigger on a Bo deal, it may be a blockbuster kind that would require other players nevertheless to accompany him out of the door; but so far there’s no news on this front – apart from the obvious and various Bo-links.
Players to have been linked with the Panthers
Milan Hejduk, Colorado (Cap Hit = $3.9 million), TFP Rank #13
Together with fierce playoff rivals Buffalo and Pittsburgh, Florida have been credited with an interest with the 32-year old right wing sniper. A proven goalscorer with silky hands, Hejduk would be a first line player with almost any team. For him to be available however the Avs must first fall out of playoff contention and – considering how tight the Western Conference is – that is certainly no certainty. He also has a no-trade clause and must accept any trade he is involved in.
Overall, whilst there is no questioning Hejduk’s obvious talent, this one seems to have a few too many “ifs” surrounding it, to sound like a feasible Panther catch. Also, we should be more interested in a quality centerman than another winger. Horton is who we’d like to use on that first line right wing and if Hejduk were to arrive it would mean Horton would have to stay in the center – and I’m not sure that is in Florida’s best interest.
It is hard to see us being involved in more than one non-Bo-related blockbuster move. So, this rumor doesn’t sound all too hot, although things could yet happen to change that equation (injuries, trades etc).
Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh (Cap Hit = $2.2 million), TFP Rank #16
Although the Penguins recently signed the 20-year old centerman to a new 4-year $16 million deal to extend his current contract, the rumors of Pittsburgh shopping him haven’t dissipated. In fact the contract extension, while upping his market value considerably, is only likely to make teams even more interested in the young stud forward.
He’s been playing well of late, but with both Malkin and Crosby in the same team he only ranks as No.3 center in the Penguins dressing room. He’d likely be given more responsibility on a different roster and Pittsburgh is more in need of wingers than centermen. They are believed to be shopping Ryan Whitney, but if that doesn’t field the right offers then Staal could indeed be available.
For the Panthers this seems like a near perfect fit! In a long-term perspective that is…
He is a young, talented and driven centerman – that could be a star player for us in the future. His new 4-year contract extension would also justify us giving up a considerable asset in acquiring him. The negative part is that we are unlikely to have what the Penguins would want in return for him – a first line winger. Unless of course Jacques Martin would be willing to give up a player such as Nathan Horton that is…
Also, while we remain in a gridlock playoff race with Pittsburgh we’d have to think long and hard before making a trade with them – the last thing we’d want to do is to give the Penguins an extra edge over us in that race!
Scottie Upshall, Philadelphia (Cap Hit = $1.225), TFP Rank #18
The Flyers are reportedly looking to bolster their blueline and would be willing to deal away a forward in order to accomplish that. Scottie is one of those players linked with a trade and the winger could slot in to a top six forward compartment; playing either on the left or the right wing depending on where he’s needed. Apart from Florida, Atlanta has also been linked with Upshall.
Again, a winger is not top priority for Florida, but if a player of Upshall’s quality is available Jacques may very well consider a move. Only problem is that we’d have to give up a top quality defenseman in return and if we indeed must part with Jay Bouwmeester; we’d be loathed to lose another top blueliner in addition to him.
Unless of course Philadelphia is serious in pursuing Jay at the deadline; Upshall could then be part of a major package deal for Bo. Question is if the Flyers are really willing to give up all the assets it’s likely to be required to get their hands on one of the league’s elite defensemen? Right now this seems like a long shot, but we’ll see closer to the deadline if that changes or not.
These are the major players so far to have been mentioned with Florida in the same breath as the trade deadline. However, earlier in the year the Panthers were at times linked with other players; for example Vermette of Ottawa and new names are sure to surface as we move closer to that March 4th date. Here follows a couple of names we are not currently linked with, but could become connected to later on – as the Cats would probably be interested in them, or at least should be, if they become available for a reasonable offer…
Player that could get linked with the Panthers down the line
Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis (Cap Hit = $4 million), TFP Rank #8
While a deal for the 36-year old Blues veteran would be both spectacular and unexpected, he does fit the bill of a class-act experienced first line centerman that Florida definitely will need if they are hoping to advance in a potential playoff. Boston, Montreal and Chicago however seem like more probable destinations if St. Louis miss the playoffs and look to deal the veteran.
Keith has a no-trade clause and doesn’t want to move, although reports claim he’d be willing waive that clause if the destination were a Stanley Cup contender. Hence why the other mentioned teams are more likely destinations than the Panthers – or Carolina and Pittsburgh for that matter, who have also been touted as being interested.
This seems like a no go for the Cats at present time I’m afraid.
Jason Spezza, Ottawa (Cap Hit = $7 million), TFP Rank #12
With the Senators hitting rock bottom, a shake-up of the team will be expected; with established players leaving at the trade deadline. Spezza is one of those players being continuously linked with a move. Columbus is apparently very interested and so is Edmonton. However, it remains uncertain as to whether the Ottawa owner Melnyk really wants to part with his star centerman.
Panthers should also be interested as he is a very talented and proven centerman that could slot in to our first line very well. The drawback is the considerable size of his contract which would leave us few alternatives as to who to give up to Ottawa in return. The Senators have expressed much interest in Bouwmeester over the season, but since their continued woes on the ice firmly cemented them in the lower echelons of the league – such talk has begun to die out for obvious reasons. They need talents and picks, not a player whose contract is set to expire this summer.
Again, this sounds like a no-go, but if Jacques is creative in orchestrating a blockbuster move involving several players, it isn’t an impossibility, but remains unlikely for the time being.
Doug Weight, NY Islanders (Cap Hit = $1.75 million), TFP Rank #21
The veteran 38-year old centerman is available according to several reports. With the Islanders firmly in tracks for that No.1 pick in the drafts, they are willing to offload some players; Weight currently being one of them rumored to be offered to playoff contending teams. Columbus, Buffalo and Phoenix are rumored to be interested in taking on his contract.
I’m surprised that Florida’s hat doesn’t seem to be in that pile at the moment. He looks like a good match for us with his experience in that center position. It could be a player the Panthers GM Jacques Martin might want to take a closer look at. We could afford to add him to our salary cap without having to give up any talent; a pick for the upcoming draft would probably suffice. He may be getting old and a bit slow on the skates, but he could definitely fill an important role with the Cats and provide some veteran presence, amid the heart of our forward lines, for a concerted playoff-push this spring.