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The FHN Florida Panthers Mailbag: Potential trades, goalies & more

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Florida Panthers forward Owen Tippett, here ‘Simpsonized’ in a 2020 Springfield Thunderbirds promotional poster, has been named in various trade rumors as the NHL deadline approaches. // Photo @GeorgeRichards

While a number of NHL teams have already come out of their All-Star break, the Florida Panthers do not play until next Wednesday — with their first practice coming Friday afternoon. 

So, what better time than to open up the FHN Mailbag and answer some of your questions about the team.

With the NHL Trade Deadline coming next month, many of you had questions about what the Panthers are looking for.

We know GM Bill Zito will be buying. But what can he afford? What is he willing to spend?

There were also a lot of questions about the team’s goaltending situation, the return of Noel Acciari and Patric Hornqvist as well as one about why the team has not kept last season’s Reverse Retro look.

What targets will Zito be looking at at the trade deadline and what pieces do we realistically have to offer up? Related question: How serious is the Panthers’ interest in bringing Chychrun home? — Matthew Kristal

If going off Bill Zito’s previous moves are any indication, he is looking for a number of pieces — defense being the obvious one.

Florida has a pretty good defensive corps, perhaps better than what we thought it would be when the season started, but the Panthers could definitely be deeper there.

I do believe the Panthers are still in on Jakob Chychrun although I am not sure they have enough to pull off that kind of a deal. But who knows? Arizona may also feel it could bring in a better haul in the offseason at the draft.

Hey George,

Thanks to you and Colby as always for the excellent coverage.

My question for you is a simple one: why haven’t the Panthers caught on and released a third jersey (reverse retros don’t count as they were a league-wide initiative)? — Terence Graham

Hey Terence,

Thanks! We appreciate all of your support!

I know just about everyone dug last year’s Reverse Retros and they may indeed become the basis for the team’s permanent third jerseys in the future. But next season, they will have a new Reverse Retro. So no third jersey next year — perhaps in 2023.

Who do you think would be the best defenseman for us to bring over of the good ones available? Do you think Zito will dip into prospect pool like Denisenko, Hutsko, Noel, Kierstad, etc to make a deal happen? I’m not ready to give up on Tippett. — Drjoel

I think Chychrun is the player Florida would most like to have and there are obvious reasons for that. He would fit right in with this team, is signed for the next three seasons and doesn’t have a huge cap hit.

Florida’s blueline would be better with Chychrun on it. But, with the Panthers in go-for-it mode, there is certainly a thought they would be find with bringing in a rental — like a Ben Chiarot — and they would have to bite down and give up a youngster or two. 

This team is ready to win it all right now; you make moves to help achieve that. You cannot wait for prospects to mature. Sometimes you just have to roll the dice for today and worry about tomorrow then.

Florida Panthers: A ‘juggernaut’ start, desire to keep good times going | FHN+

Do you think the signing of Mack Guzda could signal that Zito is willing to use Spencer Knight as a trade chip in an effort to boost the blueline? In addition, do you see Zito trying to add Claude Giroux? — Kyle Campbell

I would not be surprised if there was a thought that having two young goalies in the system would be better than one in case a big deal needed to be made.

And, the Chychrun deal would be the one we’re talking about. Anton Lundell is an untouchable piece. Get his name out of any rumor right now — in fact, it probably never should have been brought up.

Arizona could ask for Sasha Barkov, doesn’t mean Florida would consider moving him. But Spencer Knight? If that’s what a deal like that takes, perhaps you consider it. 

Is a high-end defenseman who comes with a team-friendly deal worth a young goalie — no matter how good you think he is going to be (not far) down the line — to try and win now? It’s definitely something worth thinking about. Not saying they’re going to do it, but when it comes to goalies, maybe you gamble that you can find another one what with Sergei Bobrovsky still signed for another four seasons. 

Why did we sign another goalie? — Michael Anthony

Well, perhaps just for the reason stated above. It never hurts to have good depth at all positions and Florida likes the way Guzda has worked on his game and made marked improvement. The Panthers have been watching him and like his potential.

Is Etu actively being shopped? If he’s still a cat after the deadline does he move to the wing on a fourth line featuring acciari in the middle and lomberg on the opposite wing? — surveyjay

I don’t know that he is. I don’t think anyone is being actively shopped. Anyway, he has been a nice find and a big piece of that fourth line. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Acciari play the wing but take a lot of the face-offs.

GR…..how do you see the playing time panning out w Acciari / Horny back and the logjam that will now exist? Thanks for all your excellent coverage!! — Phil Gallo

PG…..something has to give, right? Both of those players could be back in the lineup when Florida returns to play next week in Carolina and that could mean a roster move or two. And there is no more taxi squad to hide a player.

Chase Priskie probably joins Knight in Charlotte (if he hasn’t already) so that opens up the two roster spots needed to activate Hornqvist and Acciari. But you weren’t asking about roster spots.

I would think Ryan Lomberg could see himself a healthy scratch at times — although Florida would like to see that fourth line reunited — and Frank Vatrano may see his time reduced even more before the deadline.

What does the team think about Tippett? He’s had some good chances and improved different parts of his game, but hasn’t really been able to score much. Does the team still see him as a top-line forward? Seems like he may be getting surpassed by other young players. — pantherbot

Owen Tippett is another player who could find his playing time reduced with the additions of Hornqvist and Acciari although the Panthers really want to see his continued growth. He is playing well right now and is obviously a player the team would like to showcase a bit before the trade deadline commences.

I think the team really likes Tippett and he would be getting more action on a less-talented team. But thems the breaks. If Tippett wants to play and wants to stay, he is going to have to produce at a higher level — and lately, he has been doing just that.

Tippett is a talented player with a great shot and has shown he can play up in the lineup. He sort of struggles when he drops down and that could be a confidence thing or just a lack of opportunity. The Panthers would love to keep him, but at the deadline, rebuilding teams are going to want a young player with NHL experience. That’s Tippett.

Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito talks team, trades and Huberdeau | FHN+

(1) What’s the plan for JJ in goal?

(2) Where does Lundell’s rookie season rank in all-time Panthers rookie seasons?

(3) Because I’m lazy: how much cap space will we have banked at the trade deadline? — @LegendofZarra

(1) We are going to find out soon enough, right? Unless there is an injury we don’t know about, the Panthers need Knight’s roster spot so Jonas Johansson is going to have to play one of these days.

(2) Based on how good he’s playing and how good of a team this is, it is pretty impressive. The Panthers are leaning on him in some very important situations — on both ends of the ice — and he is coming through time and again. Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad both won the Calder as rookies so those are the seasons to look at. Right now, I rank him second behind Ekblad in that regard.

(3) About $3 million without making any other deals to shed some salary.

George,
Knowing Zito and how he has operated thus far, do you think he is more inclined to make “value trades” in shoring up some depth before the playoffs (a winger and d-man) as opposed to a more “splashy” and pricey acquisition (like a Chychrun)? What is also interesting, is what do you make of the Panthers recent goalie signing? Is this a portend of things to come as far as a potential trade package to bring in another defenseman? — Thomas

Thomas,
Zito
certainly likes to find value in players that other teams may be mismanaging or need a change of scenery. But the Panthers are beyond value-shopping right now.

I am not saying they are going to make a blockbuster move — perhaps adding a guy like Chychrun may be easier to do in the offseason — but know they are meeting each day talking about who may be available and what they’re ready to give up to get that player. It should be very interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks.

What’s the plan for Hornqvist next year? He’s had a huge leadership role and has been really effective when healthy, but there’s a salary crunch next year and he’s not getting any younger. The team needs to fit in someone like Marchment. Does Hornqvist get traded or bought out after one last hurrah in the playoffs this year? — pantherbot

With the big hit on the second year (signing bonus) of the Keith Yandle buyout, I don’t see Florida buying out another player. That’s just too much dead cap space.

They love Hornqvist and what he brings to this team — and we have seen that fourth line bring plenty to the table. They would love to have his cap hit off the ledger moving forward, but they are probably OK keeping it on because it means he remains with the team.

Looking at defenseman that may be available at the trade deadline, the only one I want is Chychrun.  Unfortunately, I think we may be a dark horse to land him.  Who else do you think we target, and what do you think it costs us? — @pamela_abrell

The are a few free agent defensemen out there who could be had — although the Panthers do not have a 2022 first or second-round pick to trade since they have already been sent to other teams in previous (Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett) trades.

Here are some of the defensemen I think could be available for the Panthers that I wrote a few weeks ago.

Andrew Brunette: ‘Interim’ coach of the Florida Panthers finally an All-Star

Seems like our 2–4 lines have some set combinations that have worked pretty consistently well (Huberdeau – Bennett – Duclair / Marchment – Lundell – Reinhart / Hornqvist – Luostarinen – Lomberg) but the 1st line is Barkov, Verhaghe and (rotate a name here while affecting one of the other 3 lines). Acciari looks like he will be back in the lineup soon. Do you think they try slotting Acciari in on that first line or maybe move Reinhart back there and try him on the 3rd or how do you think things will look once Acciari is back? Or does he become one of the possible trade pieces for a defenseman?

Secondly, who do you think is the best option for that spot – Vatrano, Tippett, Mamin or maybe one of our prospects like Denisenko? And will that line be able to establish a sset chemistry the way the other 3 have? — Bryan Geary

My answer will not be as long as the question.

First, I think Mamin stays with the top line as Huberdeau goes back with Bennett and Duclair on the second. Hornqvist will be back on the fourth line and I don’t think anyone is breaking up the third line. Acciari up on the top line with Mamin scratched — or replacing Lomberg on the fourth? That could happen as well.

Do you think we will ever see the players coming out through the giant Panther again? And why did that stop? — @andrewlevine5

Great question. The giant Panther head — which has been replicated in San Jose (with a Shark) and Nashville (with a panther-looking cat) — apparently was not constructed real well and was a danger to players after too many trips up to the rafters. It was simply deteriorating. 

I think they need to do something different. The past few seasons, the team comes out of their locker room through the weight room, down a nondescript hallway and onto the ice with some flashing lights going off. Bringing back the big cat (it would have to be a new one) would be a cool nod to late-90s nostalgia.

The fan base has been more vocal and present of late, even though that was not the case earlier in the year. Is there a sense on the team and management that they are finally getting some of the local (and national) attention they deserve, or more frustration at the still relative lack of support and respect? — Cats and Leafs

They seem very happy with the fans they get in Sunrise as everyone seems to be having a pretty good time. The crowds, even when not particularly big, are certainly loud. They are only going to get bigger.

South Florida loves a winner and certainly love a dominating winner. These Panthers are not boring, which will lead to bigger crowds — a true sellout is coming (the place can hold over 19,000).

As far as media coverage goes, you’re going to see a lot more national outlets (even one that laid off their Panthers reporter in 2020) dropping in to start covering the team on a more frequent basis.

I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a few more local outlets (no names) to jump on the bandwagon.

Don’t worry, we’ll continue to cover the team each and every day. No one covers the Panthers like us, but you already know that.

George, can you comment on what – and please be specific – you like so much about the John Glenn International Airport? Also, which is better: Wawa or Buc-ees? Asking for Sheetz. — Ed Purchase

Ed, the best part about the Columbus airport is the size and ease to fly in-and-out. When you land, it’s a short walk to the baggage claim and the wait is always short.

When flying out, the food selections aren’t great — but they have a Donato’s pizza in the Southwest terminal and that makes me happy. There’s also a vending machine where you can get a bottle of water for $2.50. That’s a pretty good airport price.

As much as I love Wawa, Buc-ees blows everyone out of the water. The BBQ alone beats out Wawa and definitely Sheetz. Although that’s fine in a pinch. Buc-ees is such a roadtrip place though, they really don’t compete with either of those places because of the large footprint they need.

Miami Heroes or Miami Subs? — @ferrdistheword

You know the answer to this one Ferrd. Too bad Miami Heroes is no longer around. That was a good sandwich.

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