Traded Angelo Esposito to Dallas for Ondrej Roman Really not much to say about this trade. Esposito is a former first round pick who hasn't seen much success outside of junior hockey. Roman hasn't done much with his AHL career either, so I'm not sure why this trade was made or if it means anything in the big picture. Signed John Madden to a one-year/$600k contract Florida's experienced a lot of injuries to their forward corps this year, so they decided to bring in John Madden on a cheap contract to help give them more depth. Madden might be nearing 40, but he is a fine defensive forward and not a bad person to have in your bottom-six. He's gone 15 games without a goal and has been getting pounded in his own end, so the signing hasn't worked out the way Florida planned yet. I expect him to stay in the lineup for the rest of the year, though. Traded Evgenii Dadonov and AJ Jenks to Carolina for Mattias Lindstrom and Jon Matsumoto With Dadonov bouncing back-and-forth between the NHL and AHL, it was clear that Florida didn't see him in their future plans. They also needed help in San Antonio with their AHL club and Matsumoto has been a top performer in Albany/Charlotte for awhile. This trade makes sense for both teams because Florida needed AHL scoring, and they get that in Matsumoto while Carolina needed to strengthen their forward prospect pool and Dadonov helps that cause. Signed Tyson Strachan to a one-year/$600k contract Strachan is a good depth defenseman to have at your disposal. He can play a third pairing role effectively at the NHL level but he isn't someone that you want in your lineup every night. With Florida seeing injuries to Jovanovski, Garrison and Kulikov this year, they needed depth on the back end and Strachan should give him that. He should be fine as long as he's in a sheltered role. Now let's see what kind of situation Florida is in when it comes to money and cap space. Top 3 Forwards: Fleischmann, Upshall, Weiss - $11,100,000
Middle 6 Forwards: Kopecky, Bergenheim, Goc, Santorelli, ???, ??? - $9,050,000
Top 4 Defensemen: Campbell, Jovanovski, Gudbranson, ??? - $14,467,875
Bottom 9 Players: Bradley, Matthias, Skille, Weaver, Strachan, ???, ???, ???, ??? - $4,326,625
Goaltenders: Theodore, Markstrom - $2,800,000 $41,744,500 on 17 players (10 forwards, 5 defensemen, 2 goaltenders) UFA: Samuselsson, Sturm, Barch, Madden, Garrison, Clemmensen
RFA: Versteeg, Kulikov, Ellerby Tallon spent like a mad man last summer but Florida still has plenty of cap space to work with even with all the long-term contracts. Clearing Booth's $4.25 mil. cap hit helped that. As of right now, they have about $9 mil. in cap space to work with but Tallon needs to be careful with his trades over the next week. Both Versteeg and Garrison are due new contracts and I am willing to bet that both will get large raises. Versteeg has been arguably their best forward and Garrison's emerged as an offensive threat with Brian Campbell so I would guess that Tallon plans to keep both around next year. Kulikov will likely be re-signed too and him plus Garrison and Versteeg's new contracts should take up a bit of cap space. That should get them to the floor and those empty roster spots can be filled by their upcoming prospects. Florida has a lot of money invested in their top players for the next few seasons, so the trades I see them making over the next week will likely be for depth purposes and secondary scoring. They might also look to add some defensive depth because they have been hit hard by the injury bug, but they may have to go the cheap route with all the money they have invested in their top four. They are also going to look for expiring contracts to keep those roster spots open for next year. With the depth that Florida has in their system, Tallon isn't going to mortgage the future for a brief playoff run. No reason to make a blockbuster deal here. Florida needs depth to go anywhere in the playoffs but they also need to remember not to give up anything of great value to acquire that depth. Let's look at their current depth chart to see where their main needs are and who they might acquire.
Fleischmann - Weiss - Versteeg
Bergenheim - Goc - Samuelsson
Skille - Matthias - Kopecky
Barch - Santorelli - Bradley Gudbranson - Campbell
Strachan - Robak
Ellerby - Weaver Theodore
Garrison (out until next week)
Jovanovski (could be back in a few weeks)
Upshall (out until at least April)
Kulikov (Out until March)
Sturm (Out until March)
Madden (out for two weeks) One of the keys to the Panthers success is their second line of Bergenheim, Goc & Samuelsson. These three take most of the tough draws and free up the Weiss line to easier minutes and that method has worked like a charm so far. Their first line has been benefiting from ridiculous shooting percentages all year so I don't know if that's going to sustain through the playoffs, but we'll see. Either way, that line has made up most of their scoring and if they go through a dry spell, they are in trouble. This is why I think they could use some help with secondary scoring. Guys like Bergenheim, Samuelsson and Matthias pitching in help but I think another scorer like Andrei Kostitsyn or Brad Boyes could help. That and those sound like the kind of players Tallon typically acquires. Although, waiting for Scottie Upshall to get healthy might be a better option but who knows if he'll be ready by playoff time? Florida's defense has also been destroyed by injuries but most of their key players should be back by March so I'm not sure if Tallon will make a move or just wait for Garrison and Kulikov to get healthy. The Panthers have a great opportunity to make the playoffs now because the division is wide open but I don't know if they are good enough to get past the first round. With how unpredictable Dale Tallon is, it will be interesting to see what he does in the past week but if I was a Florida fan, I would hope that he doesn't make any big moves. His history of deadline trades isn't very good and there's no need for Florida to deal any of their prospects right now. Gaining two months of secondary scoring isn't worth risking the future. That said, I think Tallon will trade for a couple forwards with in the next week to help make Florida in better shape for a playoff run.
TEAMS: Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars, Carolina Hurricanes, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres
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