NASHVILLE — As the first round of the NHL Draft gets underway today at the Bridgestone Arena, there are plenty of names being tossed around in trade rumors, including Florida Panthers forward Anthony Duclair.
The Panthers have not spoken publicly about their plans, obviously, with trade talk involving numerous players with dozens of teams.
But here is what we know: Duclair is going into the final year of the three-year, $9 million contract extension he signed in 2021 and it does not sound like the Panthers have spoken to him about extending that deal further.
Florida is able to extend players entering the final year of their contracts starting on Saturday afternoon.
Duclair, Brandon Montour, Gus Forsling and Sam Reinhart are players who are in that situation.
Speaking to reporters at the youth hockey camp he is running through his charitable foundation in Coral Springs on Tuesday afternoon, Duclair — who represents himself as his own agent — did not want to talk much about rumors or talks of an extension.
“I have been fully focused on this camp and then my focus is on the camp in Montreal and that has been it,’’ Duclair said.
He later reiterated that.
“I haven’t heard anything,” Duclair said, “just been focused on the camp.”
There had been whispers Florida was looking to move Duclair and his $3 million cap hit last summer to help out their salary cap situation but then he ruptured his Achilles tendon during offseason workouts.
Duclair ended up missing more than half of the season, returning to the Panthers in February around the NHL Trade Deadline.
He scored an empty-net goal against Tampa Bay in his second game back on Feb. 28 and then went until Florida’s regular-season finale against Carolina before scoring his second.
An injury like this one is tough to come back from and it was obvious Duclair needed work with his timing and hands even if his speed and his skating surprisingly did not appear to be affected by the long rehabilitation and time off.
“You take the rehab, he couldn’t do anything for six months. But he is at every one of our meetings,’’ coach Paul Maurice said during the Stanley Cup Final. “He had to get to full strength before we could put him on the ice so then he is starting again.
“He didn’t touch pucks for six months, so you are completely removed from your sport with this injury. He came back in his first five games back and was outstanding. He couldn’t score, but he had 25 chances. … He has gotten better and better in these playoffs.”
Duclair was one of Florida’s top offensive producers with four goals and 11 points in 21 postseason games — including a goal in the second period of Game 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
As it stands, Duclair is one of the more popular players on the Panthers among fans, his teammates and throughout the organization.
When he joined the Panthers as a sudden free agent in 2020 — Ottawa did not offer him a qualifying offer after scoring 23 goals knowing he was going to get a big contract if he took them to arbitration — Duclair said he wanted to find a place to call home.
In three seasons with the Panthers, he has found that here.
But will it continue?
The draft opens tonight in Nashville with the first round starting at 7 p.m. with the remainder of the selections made starting on Thursday morning.
Free agency opens around the NHL on Saturday at noon and there is going to be a lot of movement between now and then.
“I got a great opportunity when I came down here,” Duclair said earlier this month in Las Vegas.
“I was lucky enough to be part of a great team and wanted to make South Florida a home for myself when I got there and did just that. It is just a matter of keeping on going.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
- Today: First-round NHL Draft; Nashville, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
- Thursday: NHL Draft, Nashville (Florida has picks in Rounds 2, 4, 5, 6 & 7); Nashville, 11 a.m. (NHL Network)
- Friday: Buyout period ends
- Saturday: Free agency opens, noon
- Mid-September: Training Camp, South Florida
- Sept. 25: Preseason starts, doubleheader v. Nashville @ Sunrise
- Oct. 7: Preseason ends, vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
- Mid-October: Start of 2023-24 Regular Season