On Thursday night, Claude Giroux was celebrated in Philadelphia for playing in his 1,000th NHL game with the Flyers. Game No. 1,001 will be with the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers made another big move in their quest for a deep postseason run on Saturday as they acquired the now-former Flyers’ captain in perhaps the biggest move which will be made before Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline.
The trade was first reported by NHL Insiders Pierre LeBrun (TSN) and Elliotte Friedman (Sportsnet).
It is now official.
“Claude has been one of the most complete talents in the National Hockey League for over a decade,” GM Bill Zito said in a statement.
“He has demonstrated his elite leadership and work ethic during his tenure in Philadelphia and we are thrilled to be able to welcome a player of his caliber to our lineup. Additionally, we are excited to receive Connor and German into our Panthers
Philadelphia’s return, which includes power forward Owen Tippett, is pretty big but catapults the Panthers as the favorite in the Eastern Conference.
Florida is also giving up its first-round pick in 2024 and a third round selection in 2023.
The Panthers have now dealt away their next three first-round picks for: Sam Reinhart (2022, Buffalo); Ben Chiarot (2023, Montreal) and 2024.
In addition to Giroux, Florida will receive 2016 first-round pick German Rubtsov and 2016 fourth-round pick Connor Bunnaman. Both are forwards who have spent most of their time in the Flyers’ system playing for AHL Lehigh Valley. The Panthers also get a fifth-round pick in 2024.
Philadelphia will retain 50 percent of Giroux’s $8.275 million annual cap hit.
Florida is also keeping its remaining top prospects such as 2021 first-round pick Mackie Samoskevich of the University of Michigan and 2018 first-round pick Grigori Denisenko.
Spencer Knight (2019) and Anton Lundell (2020) were never up for trade discussion.
Unlike defenseman Ben Chiarot, acquired in a deal with Montreal on Wednesday night, Giroux will be able to join his new teammates as soon as he can catch a flight to Fort Lauderdale.
The Panthers beat Anaheim 3-0 on Friday night and flew back from Los Angeles International afterward, landing in Fort Lauderdale early Saturday morning.
The team has a practice scheduled for Sunday morning in Coral Springs and it is possible Giroux will be there to greet them.
Chiarot is a Canadian citizen who was playing for a Canadian team meaning he has to get a U.S. work visa. Giroux has one and would be immediately available.
The move by Zito is another strong commitment to this current team.
Giroux, like Chiarot, is a pending free agent and may end up leaving upon the end of this season.
The Panthers just hope it comes following a boat parade down the New River in Fort Lauderdale.
With the deadline coming Monday, Zito may not be done.
The Panthers saw star defenseman Aaron Ekblad hurt his right leg on Friday night and although Brunette said the injury is not thought to be long-term, Florida may still be looking for help on the blueline.
As far as Giroux goes, he was considered the top available player on the trade market after the Flyers flopped this season.
A 15-year NHL veteran, Giroux is a natural center who will likely slot onto Florida’s top line alongside Sasha Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe.
In 1,000 games with the Flyers, Giroux has scored 900 points — 291 off goals — and will give the Panthers a powerhouse top 6.
Coach Andrew Brunette and his staff have a plethora of options now.
And they’re all pretty sweet.
Giroux, 34, had a full no-movement clause with the Flyers and could decline any other trade.
Although it had been rumored earlier this season that Giroux wanted to go to Colorado, those reports were never confirmed.
Word leaked this week that Florida was his preferred destination which allowed the Panthers to send its 2023 first-round pick to the Canadiens for Chiarot and send Philadelphia the package of players.
Frank Seravalli of DailyFaceoff.com reported that Giroux told Philadelphia he would only go to Florida — and the Flyers only talked to Zito about a trade.
For Tippett, the trade marks the end of an up-and-down career with the Panthers.
He made his NHL debut not long after being Florida’s first-round pick (10th overall) in 2017. He played in seven games and was returned to his junior team in Mississauga, Ontario, for the remainder of that season although he did join the AHL Springfield Thunderbirds once his junior season was completed.
In 2018, Tippett was looked at as having a chance to make the Panthers but the team ended up making him an early cut.
Tippett then turned pro in 2019 and was sent to Springfield with the Panthers trying not to rush him. He had a fantastic season with the T-Birds and was likely to be called up in February but a season-ending wrist injury sustained in January cost him that shot.
He did make the Panthers last season and ended up playing 42 games, scoring seven goals with 18 points.
By the end of last season, Tippett was coming into his own, playing on a second line with Huberdeau and Bennett. Those three looked great together in the playoffs and they started training camp together.
Tippett ended up splitting his time with the Panthers and AHL Charlotte this season. With the Panthers he struggled at times, scoring six goals with 14 points in 42 games.
He has been with Charlotte since being sent down on Feb. 22 — and he has played with the Checkers, earning AHL Player of the Week honors after scoring four goals with eight points in four games.
The Panthers held him out of Thursday night’s game against Providence in anticipation of this trade going through by the weekend and did not want to risk his getting hurt.
In 12 games with the Checkers — with Philadelphia scouts watching most of them — Tippett scored six goals with 18 points.
As for Giroux, things sometimes come full circle.
Giroux’s first NHL goal came on Jan. 16, 2009 against Tomas Vokoun in a 3-2 loss to the Panthers at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
Michal Repik, David Booth and Bryan McCabe (now in the Panthers’ front office) all scored for Florida in that win.
“I think it’s every kid’s goal to score in the NHL,” Giroux said. “Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can keep playing better.”