The Florida Panthers may have hit the All-Star break atop the NHL standings, but there is always room to improve — and the team will try and do so at the NHL Trade Deadline next month.
Florida general manager Bill Zito has said so himself.
“You’ve probably heard it before; you can never have enough defense,” Zito said. “It’s something we can’t really rest on, we always have to continue to look to get better.”
Defense, as mentioned by Zito, is one of Florida’s main priorities and the team is expected to add at least one d-man by the time the NHL Trade Deadline comes March 21 at 3 p.m.
It could be a legit top-pair lefthanded defenseman who would play with Aaron Ekblad — allowing the team to reunite the Gus Forsling-MacKenzie Weegar pairing that played so well together down the stretch last season.
It may be a depth piece who would slide in next to Forsling or Brandon Montour.
Regardless, making a move is something that has been on Florida’s radar since the start of training camp.
The sixth spot on the Florida blueline has been a little murky.
Lucas Carlsson, Matt Kiersted, Chase Priskie and Olli Juolevi have all been platooning in that spot and have produced mostly positive results.
Yet the Panthers want more consistency — and more experience — in that area heading into the playoffs.
Defense is not the only place where they could improve.
Despite leading the league in goals by a wide margin, the Panthers will be looking to upgrade their forward group although this is less of a concern.
FHN reported last week that Owen Tippett could be on the trading block.
He has been playing top-six minutes since Maxim Mamin was placed on injured reserve, so another forward could very well be in order.
Mamin previously played on the first line alongside Sasha Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe but looked uninspiring at times while paired with them.
Per DobberHockey, that line scored just three goals in over 66 minutes together.
With Sam Reinhart, who had success alongside Barkov in the past, finding chemistry with his counterparts on the third line, Florida may need to find Barkov and Verhaeghe a consistent linemate.
Here are a number of players the Panthers could have serious interest in, whether as a rental or with the future in mind: