The Florida Panthers went to Columbus for some defensive help Thursday as GM Bill Zito made a deal with former boss Jarmo Kekalainen to acquire Markus Nutivaara in a trade with the Blue Jackets.
Nutivaara, 26, is signed for the next two seasons with a cap hit of $2.7 million.
Florida gave prospect Cliff Pu to the Blue Jackets in return for the defenseman.
Nutivaara is a left-handed shot who likes to play on the right side and gives the Panthers more options on their blueline after trading Mike Matheson to Pittsburgh and Josh Brown to Ottawa.
Right now, based off what Florida’s defensive lineup looked like at the end of last season, the Panthers D could line up like this:
MacKenzie Weegar – Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman – Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle – Nutivaara
Extras: Brady Keeper, Chase Priskie
Last season was a battle for Nutivaara as he dealt with a number of injuries including a concussion.
Nutivaara played in 37 of Columbus’ 70 games and spent most of his time as a third-pairing defenseman.
Coach John Tortorella made him a healthy scratch in six games during the season. Nutivaara missed 26 games from Nov. through Jan. due to injury.
With the acquisition of Nutivaara, the Panthers now have 13 players under NHL contracts with four other players ( Weegar, Henrik Borgstrom, Aleksi Saarela and Sam Montembeault) given qualifying offers on Thursday.
Florida, at least as of Thursday afternoon, will go into the free agency market Friday about $19 million under the $80.5 million salary cap per Puckpedia.com.
In his career, the native of Oulu, Finland, has played in 244 games with the Blue Jackets (2016-20) scoring 17 goals with 60 points. He also has appeared in 12 postseason games including two this past summer.
“He is a responsible and competitive two-way defenseman who possesses great vision and moves the puck well,’’ said Zito, who was part of the Columbus front office the past seven years before taking over the Panthers on Sept. 2.
“He will be an excellent addition to our team and strengthens our depth on defense.”