Well folks, tonight might be the last time you see a few current Panther players donning the sweater, as the trade deadline is quickly approaching. Despite an inspired come from behind win against the Islanders on Sunday, the Panthers are still facing reality and looking at a bottom-five finish and a top draft pick come June. The deadline will bring the opportunity for the Panthers and GM Dale Tallon to part with some pieces in exchange for future resources or, even better, current NHLers that can provide the club with more than they're getting now. There have been far too many instances of supposed veterans who should be leading by example but instead go through the motions and put in minimal effort, something that needs to disappear within the lineup if this club wants any chance at success on a nightly basis. Changes are a definite, but how many changes remains to be seen.
So will we see any healthy scratches leading up to game time? If so, expect names like Mike Weaver, Tomas Fleischmann, Marcel Goc, Brad Boyes, Tim Thomas, Tom Gilbert and Scott Gomez to be among those scratches. There have been rumblings that Boyes, Gilbert and Thomas have had some talks with Tallon about returning next season, with Boyes actually receiving an offer from the club this week, but anything could happen leading up to the deadline if the right deal presents itself. Tallon doesn't have a lot to work with in terms of high-end assets but some of these names could fetch the right return.
Regardless of the deadline, the Cats can't dwell on what's coming but instead must focus on the ice against a surging Boston club that is 6-2-2 in its last ten games. Expect to see Thomas vs. Chad Johnson tonight, and expect the Bruins to come hard at Florida early in the game.
Players to Trade: Deadline Edition
- Tomas Fleischmann - Personally, I'd be sad to see Flash go, as he's been by far the best offensive tool the Panthers have had in the lineup the last three seasons. That said, his skill set is by far the most desirable out of any of the trade pieces Florida has to offer, and he could immediately step into a playoff-caliber team and contribute on the score sheet. If he's dealt, the Panthers will miss his production, even though this season it's been pretty sparse.
- Mike Weaver - One of the stalwarts on the Florida blue line the last few seasons, Weaver has somehow worked his way into a little bit of a dog house with head coach Peter Horacek, and has seen his playing time cut back and was a healthy scratch two games ago. Weaver is in the final year of his contract and could pull down some decent value on the market, but not many teams are going to bite on a 34-year old undersized defenseman despite his value.
- Marcel Goc - A dependable two-way center who is generally pretty solid on face-offs, Goc will definitely draw some interest as a depth player on a playoff-bound club. His offensive game is underrated and he can definitely contribute when paired with the right linemates, but his defensive play is his most valuable asset. Also in the final year of his current contract, he is probably the most likely Panther to be dealt as teams covet responsible depth players that can score at this time of year.
- Tim Thomas - Despite his age and returning from a self-imposed hiatus from NHL hockey, Timmy returned this season and played well despite having a pretty atrocious team in front of him. He's not going to be a starting goalie if he is dealt to another club, but he'd be the best backup in the league if forced to be in that role. It wouldn't be at all surprising to see Thomas pursued by a team like Pittsburgh, and we all know why they would want a more solid backup option. Tallon has spoken with Thomas about hanging around with the Cats next season, but the return for Thomas could be good enough to deal him before the deadline.