Some of the biggest decisions NHL general managers will make this offseason are which players to protect from the Seattle Kraken and the expansion draft. That includes Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito.
In 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL and the Panthers were one of the teams which got taken in the draft.
The reasoning for what GM Dale Tallon did in 2017 doesn’t really matter much in hindsight.
Vegas got two really good players from the Panthers in Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault as the Panthers decided to protect two defensemen (Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk) who ended up falling out of favor with the team and are no longer in Florida.
We’ll get into the Smith/Marchessault deal as we get closer to the Seattle draft — which is now less than a month away.
The Panthers were not the only team to make side deals with Vegas (don’t pick ‘Player A’ and we’ll give you ‘Player B’ plus something extra) and the Knights took advantage of many of them.
Although some called Vegas’ post-draft roster the worst in the NHL, the Knights (as we know now) did just fine with the players they got.
In the franchise’s four seasons, they have yet to miss the playoffs and made the NHL semifinals again this year.
Due to the success of the Knights, some wonder if GMs will be reticent to make side deals with Kraken GM Ron Francis this time around.
But with a flat salary cap for a second consecutive season — and likely to stay the same next year as well — Seattle will be making deals. For sure.
Will the Panthers, again, be one of them?
Zito has said he has already come to terms with knowing the Panthers will lose a good player to Seattle.
But, in looking to move some contracts he may not want, he may be tempted to swing a trade with the Kraken.
The big dates we are looking forward to are: July 17 when every team releases its protected list before the actual expansion draft four days later on July 21.
The Panthers are going to lose a player (perhaps two) they would rather keep.
Who could it be?