Although it is still a long time away, the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, the Florida Panthers can still bolster their roster in preparation for a Stanley Cup run in the spring. The Panthers have a few needs that can be patched. Bill Zito has over $4.5 million in cap to work at the deadline and these are some of the needs he could look for:
2nd/3rd Pairing Left Handed Defenseman: The Panthers have six regular NHL defenders on the current roster, but only two are lefties (Gustav Forsling and Markus Nutivaara). Nutivaara has only played in 1 game this season due to horrid injury luck and is expected to be out for a few months, with a possible return this season up in the air. This has left Forsling as the only regular left handed defenseman on the Panthers. With Kevin Connauton being claimed on waivers, the Panthers have rotated between Lucas Carlsson and Olli Juolevi in that 3rd pair Left D spot. Carlsson has seemingly won that spot and has been a solid contributor to the Panthers in his time here, with Juolevi likely turning out like Noah Juulsen (a failed reclamation project). Carlsson and hopefully a healthy Nutivaara could be a decent option in the playoffs, but the Panthers need additional depth, to ensure the defense can withstand another freak long term injury, which fingers crossed doesn’t happen.
Borderline Forward: This isn’t a priority, as the Panthers have 15 NHL caliber forwards on the roster, 16 once Noel Acciari comes back, but the Panthers AHL stable is kind of barren with guys who can crack into the NHL. Aleksi Heponiemi likely isn’t going to be a frequent NHLer and Grigori Denisenko could be something, but Cole Schwindt and Logan Hutsko are a while away and Serron Noel hasn’t been really impressive in the AHL this season. The Panthers already have a borderline forward in Zac Dalpe, but adding a second one wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world and would probably only cost a conditional 7th.
Goaltending Prospect: With the graduation of Spencer Knight and the Sam Reinhart trade seeing Devon Levi depart the organization, the Panthers could use some help in between the pipes in the prospect system. Kirill Gerasimyuk is the only real prospect goalie and he is several years away from coming to North America, if he is able to get there at all. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a decent NHL goaltending prospect, especially if Jonas Johansson is lost on waivers, which I expect he’ll be.
Here are some targets the Panthers could go after:
Ben Chiarot (Montreal, LHD): Ben Chiarot has been a name that has been linked to the Panthers really strongly. I had a conversation with a Habs fan on twitter the other day who gave me the rundown on Chiarot. According to @futurdgduCH on twitter: “Chiarot is a big strong guy who can put a little bit of offense. He was our best D in our last play off run imo. A verry good team mates. Not flashy but the type of guy who will help you to win a championship.” This sounds like the ideal type of guy to bring to the Panthers. Chiarot seems like a really good partner option for Brandon Montour, which would give the Panthers three strong defensive pairs. Chiarot is on the last year of a 3 year $3.5M AAV deal and has a ten team no trade list, but I don’t expect that to be an issue with the advantages that Florida has over Montreal right now (no state income tax, better shot at a cup this season, better weather, less restrictive covid rules, etc.). Chiarot has 5 goals and 2 assists in 31 games this season and has been one of Montreal’s best players in one of the worst seasons in the club’s history. The problem is that Chiarot will likely drive a king’s ransom. The Panthers would likely have to deal away a top tier prospect and another solid prospect. In addition the Panthers could fetch a return of a Montreal C-tier prospect.
After playing mock GM with another Habs fan on twitter who goes by @NHLDraftRanking, we came up with this mock trade proposal: FLA trades Grigori Denisenko and Evan Nause to MTL for Ben Chiarot (50% retained) and Blake Biondi. Biondi is a solid forward prospect in the NCAA that has NHL size and could be a solid player.
Jakob Chychurn (Arizona, LHD): If Bill Zito decides to roll the dice, he could go all in and nab hometown kid Jakob Chychurn. Chychurn has struggled on a rebuilding Arizona team, and a change of scenery seems inevitable. Chychurn will cost a king’s ransom that makes the Chiarot trade look cheap, but getting Chychurn would dramatically improve the Panthers blueline, allowing Chychurn to play with Ekblad, Weegar with Forsling and Montour with Gudas. The trick is making this trade work without including Anton Lundell and Spencer Knight, which many believe is what would be the only way a trade of this caliber would work. Here is an idea I have that doesn’t include either Knight or Lundell
Florida trades Owen Tippett, Mackie Samoskevich, Eetu Luostarinen and a 2024 1st Round Pick to Arizona for Jakob Chychurn. The Coyotes need a center, which makes parting ways with Luostarinen a necessity. Tippett and Samoskevich carry a bulk of the value here and a 2024 1st helps put it together. I don’t know if Bill Zito makes this trade, as it doesn’t seem to be his style.
Calvin De Haan (Chicago, LHD): Another player that has been linked to South Florida is Calvin De Haan. A veteran defender, De Haan is a solid two-way defender that can munch minutes and his strong skating ability seems to be a good fit with Florida’s transition style. He probably wouldn’t cost as much as the other options on this list and can be penciled in to play with Montour. If the Panthers take on his whole cap hit, they won’t be able to make any other moves.
FLA trades a 2023 3rd round pick to CHI for D Calvin De Haan. This is essentially copying and pasting the Montour deal.
These are three targets I think the Panthers could go after at the deadline.