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NHL Trade Deadline: Should Panthers Pursue Anthony Duclair?

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Anthony Duclair is a pending free agent and will reportedly be available from the San Jose Sharks at the NHL Trade Deadline on March 8. Duclair played with the Panthers from 2021-23 before being traded on July 1. // San Jose photo AP; Florida by Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

The NHL Trade Deadline is March 8, and the Florida Panthers will be a buyer.

To paraphrase general manager Bill Zito: The Panthers want to wear Armani but can only afford to shop at Marshalls.

Hey, you never know what you will find at Marshalls.

The NHL Trade Deadline is not the place to be scrounging for bargains, as the headlines are grabbed by those with high draft picks willing to part with them.

The Panthers only have a few of those chips at their table.

Florida has no first or second-round selections in the 2024 NHL Draft. Calgary has the 2025 first-round pick.

So, the Panthers look to add without having the needed currency.

However, good under-the-radar players will be available, and the Florida front office has a long list of players they are interested in.

One should be Anthony Duclair.

Yes, we know they already had him.

But with the San Jose Sharks being sellers and Duclair likely on the way out as a pending free agent, he could seriously help the Panthers, help himself with the Panthers, and not cost a whole lot.

Duclair, 28, is well-known to Zito and Florida.

He signed a one-year “prove it’’ deal before the 2021 season and did just that, scoring 10 goals with 32 points in 43 games during that shortened campaign.

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Florida signed Duclair to a three-year contract worth $3 million annually — but traded him on July 1 to clear the cap space needed to bring in Evan Rodrigues.

Duclair missed the first half of last season after sustaining an Achilles tendon injury during the summer; he came back and did not score much. Duclair had four goals and 11 points in 20 playoff games, however.

Zito is believed to be looking for a forward who could fit into the top-9.

The Panthers like what they have seen from Carter Verhaeghe with Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk — and could use someone to play up with Sasha Barkov and Sam Reinhart what with Rodrigues looking like an excellent fit with Eetu Luostarinen and Anton Lundell.

That would give the Panthers a fourth line centered by Kevin Stenlund with Ryan Lomberg and Nick Cousins on the wings; Jonah Gadjovich, Steven Lorentz and Will Lockwood would be Florida’s extras, giving the team legitimate NHL veteran forward depth going into the playoffs which will be needed as they move deep into the season.

Could Duclair be that guy to slide onto the left side of Barkov and Reinhart?

Absolutely.

Duclair has yet to put up the kind of numbers he did before the injury and only has 11 goals with 19 points in 51 games this season.

Returning to the Panthers and playing with the quality of Florida’s players could improve his numbers as well.

When it comes to adding players to the group, Zito is highly aware of how the wrong personality could affect things negatively.

Duclair is a known commodity — and a very popular teammate.

He would fit right in.

There would be hugs upon his return instead of introductory handshakes.

Paul Maurice would not have to hold many meetings with Duclair on what would be expected because he was part of just about every meeting the coach held last season.

Duclair is still attached to South Florida as evidenced by his work with his charitable foundation.

During the Sharks’ All-Star break, Duclair was back in South Florida and attended the groundbreaking at Boyd Anderson High in Lauderdale Lakes where his foundation helped donate a full-sized synthetic ice rink at the school.

Zito and assistant general manager Brett Peterson attended the ceremony unofficially.

They were there as friends of Duclair and to show their support for his good work in our community.

That day was not about the business of the NHL.

But, here we are.

“I didn’t expect Billy [and Peterson] to come by,” Duclair said. “I definitely appreciate it and it speaks volumes to what type of men they are. They treated me like gold in my time here and for them to come by, and [Vinny] Viola to donate a lot of money last year, I’m extremely grateful for that.”

The Panthers would be able to fit Duclair’s prorated cap hit and, unless San Jose is blown away with an offer from someone else, may be willing to help Duclair get back to where he wants to be.

Reunions rarely happen so soon after folks go their separate ways, but the Panthers making a play to bring back a player who could help them — and would welcome a return — could be a win-win for both.

Last year, the Panthers considered Duclair their Trade Deadline acquisition as he returned from the Achilles injury.

Now, he really could be their addition.

“When you add a dynamic player like that to your lineup, it is so helpful,’’ Reinhart said last February. “We’re all seeing what he does in practice on the ice for us and it has been a nice little jolt to have him back.

“You could see the energy he provides and now we’re looking forward to seeing it in a game. It has been a long journey for him so you know that extra motivation is going to be there.”

ON DECK

BUFFALO SABRES @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • Streaming ONLY: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Buffalo: Panthers 4, Sabres 0 (Feb. 15). At Florida: Tuesday; April 13.
  • Last Season: Florida won 3-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 55-45-8, 4 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. Montreal, 7 p.m.

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