Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito has shown he is not afraid to make a big deal whether it is in the offseason or at the NHL Trade Deadline.
In the past 16 months he has been on the job in Sunrise, Zito has transformed the Florida roster — and a lot of the changes have come through trades.
With the Panthers coming into Sunday tied for the NHL lead in points with the Tampa Bay Lightning, it is all but assured Zito will be a buyer when the trade deadline comes in March.
The Panthers are in go-for-it mode and will be players at the NHL Trade Deadline.
But what will they be looking for?
Florida appears set at forward (although it could make a few moves) and in net.
The main focus will be upgrading the defense — something Zito has been working on since he got to town.
Since Zito took over, Florida’s blueline has been completely revamped.
Of Florida’s regular defensemen, only A-listers Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar remain from the 2019-20 season.
Expect Zito to make a run at some of the big names on the market over the next few weeks.
What Zito has to deal with will be interesting and could handcuff him when it comes to the needs to certain teams.
Zito has traded Florida’s 2022 first-round pick to Buffalo for Sam Reinhart as well as the 2022 second round selection to Calgary for Sam Bennett.
Florida does have its first and second round picks from 2023 on, however.
Here is who the Panthers will be looking into acquiring — and what it could cost:
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes
It appears that Chychrun will be available as Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek said on Hockey Night in Canada that “at least 10 teams in the NHL have made enquiries about Jakob Chychrun.”
Florida is thought to be one of them.
It would be a natural fit, right?
Not only is Chychrun a high-end defenseman who would look nice on Florida’s second pairing, he is also a local product whose father Jeff is part of the team’s broadcast team.
Because Chychrun is not a rental — he has three seasons left with an affordable $4.6 million cap hit — the asking price may be out of the Panthers’ range.
Thing is, he may be exactly the kind of player Florida would have interest in.
With Weegar a likely free agent following next season, the Panthers would at least have Chychrun locked in for not only the end of this season, but the following three.
Arizona is in a deep rebuild and want a boatload for Chychrun. Florida may not have the trade capital.
The Coyotes want high draft picks, young roster players and prospects.
Florida is also close to the salary cap now — and in the future — but money can be moved to accomplish a player like Chychrun.
Shayne Gostisbehere, another local product on the Coyotes’ blueline, is not thought to be on the market.
Florida, like every other team in the league, could have claimed him off waivers from the Flyers last season.
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
The Stars’ defenseman spoke on reports that he has asked for a trade and he did not really calm any waters.
It appears he will be on the market although Dallas may be able to smooth things over and keep a key piece of its team for a playoff run.
Klingberg would be a rental with one year left at $4.25 million and the Stars may simply decide to rent him to themselves.
But he would look pretty good playing behind Ekblad and Weegar on the Panthers.
If Dallas were to decide to move on, the price may not be too steep — a high draft pick, perhaps a player.
Florida may have to move an existing player (Frank Vatrano?) anyway. Dallas could have interest in getting an established NHL player back in return.
A number of NHL Insiders — including Frank Seravalli of the Daily Faceoff — have linked the Panthers to the Montreal left defenseman.
With the Canadiens long out of postseason contention, it is likely Chiarot gets moved.
Florida has obvious interest as he would be a solid, minute-chewing defenseman who showed a strong playoff game last year when the Canadiens made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Panthers are not the only teams with interest, obviously.
Chiarot would be the cheapest option with a $3.5 million cap hit through the end of this season but that does not mean he will come cheap.
The Canadiens will be looking for a lot, although perhaps the best they will get is draft picks or a mix of prospects. Moving a veteran on an expiring contract would not appear to interest the Canadiens unless it was done simply to make the money work.
Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken
The former captain in Calgary who currently wears the ‘C’ for the Kraken, Giordano has some miles on him at 38 but the Panthers seemingly do not have a problem with age.
Giordano has a cap hit of $6.75 million so the financial price is big. We don’t even know if Seattle has interest in trading its captain — nor whether he would want to leave.
Seattle is an expansion team so we’re looking at draft picks and prospects in any deal here.
Nick Leddy, Detroit Red Wings
Financially, Leddy does not come cheap as he is in the final year of a contract with a cap hit of $5.5 million.
Detroit could make a run at a wild card but is all but locked out of the top three in the Atlantic and will be looking to continue to build up the organization.
Leddy gave the Panthers problems in the 2020 bubble while with the Islanders and is a steady defenseman who would give the Panthers a deeper defensive team, playing with either Gus Forsling or Brandon Montour.
The Wings would be looking for a mix of picks or prospects.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
VANCOUVER CANUCKS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- Last season: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Vancouver leads 18-10-3, 6 ties