The Florida Panthers could be close to adding another big piece to their defense with the acquisition of Nate Schmidt.
According to Andy Strickland of Fox Sports, the Vegas Golden Knights are in talks to trade Schmidt to the Panthers in order to clear up cap space to sign top free agent d-man Alex Pietrangelo.
David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period said the Knights would be trading Schmidt, only not to the Panthers.
UPDATE: On Monday night, Pietrangelo did sign a seven-year deal with Vegas. Vancouver acquired Schmidt a little while later, sending a third-round pick to the cap-strapped Knights.
If the Panthers were to bring Schmidt, a top-pair defenseman, that would only add more heat to the MacKenzie Weegar trade rumors which have been circulating the past few days.
Weegar, 26, is currently paired up with Aaron Ekblad on Florida’s top defensive pairing but would likely be replaced by Schmidt.
Florida would also have eight NHL defenseman under contract (counting the restricted free agent Weegar) not counting the likes of Brady Keeper and Chase Priskie.
Last season, the Panthers spent more on defensemen than any other team in the league when Mark Pysyk’s contract was factored in.
Pysyk, of course, spent about 80 percent of his season playing forward. He signed a one-year deal with Dallas on Saturday.
Since Bill Zito took over as GM, he has traded Mike Matheson to Pittsburgh and let Pysyk walk. He signed Radko Gudas to a three-year deal on Friday and traded with Columbus for Markus Nutivaara.
Schmidt has a cap hit of $5.95 million (assuming Vegas is not retaining any salary which it may be doing) and is signed for the next four seasons.
He would be the third-highest paid Florida d-man behind Aaron Ekblad ($7.5 million) and Keith Yandle ($6.35 million).
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) October 11, 2020
Weegar is a restricted free agent who was tended his contract by the Panthers last week but, for the third time, has filed for salary arbitration. Weegar took the Panthers to arbitration once before and settled with the team the other time.
He has said time and again he wants to remain with the Panthers but would like a long-term deal from the team. Florida has offered him one-year contracts in each of the past three seasons.
On Friday, Zito was asked about the Weegar trade rumors and he said while he hasn’t seen Weegar up close since he took over the job, he paid attention to his play in Toronto and liked what he saw.
When free agency opened Friday, Weegar’s name was linked to Toronto.
Florida would likely have to trade one of its defensemen and Weegar would make sense considering the money he will likely receive.
With Torey Krug in St. Louis and Pietrangelo headed to Vegas, Weegar could be one of the top defensemen currently on the market if Florida were to try and trade him.
According to Puckpedia.com, the Panthers are about $12 million under the NHL salary cap — which doesn’t include whatever Weegar would make next season.
“He’s a member of the Florida Panthers and I think he’s a wonderful player,” Zito said.
“When we were in the bubble in Toronto, I spent a lot of time watching him and he’s a dynamic guy, very competitive. I liked watching him a lot not even knowing (this job) would be an opportunity. …
“I think he’s a great young players and I am really glad to have him.”