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Sunshine State sell-off

The Cats would like to deal Brian Campbell, but his hefty contract is an obstacle.

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The Cats would like to deal Brian Campbell, but his hefty contract is an obstacle.

Only a year after making the playoffs for the first time since 2000, the Florida Panthers are once again among the NHL's bottom feeders.

As of March 13, the Panthers were eight points out of a playoff berth, sitting last in the Eastern Conference and the league's overall standings.

During the summer of 2011, Dale Tallon was the league's busiest GM, replacing half his roster with veteran talent via trades and free agency. Heading toward this year's trade deadline, he could be busy trying to shed some of those acquisitions.

The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch recently claimed everyone on the Panthers' roster – except for Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson, Jacob Markstrom and Drew Shore – could be available.

Garrioch also reported Tallon was prepared to trade pending free agent Stephen Weiss prior to his season-ending wrist surgery. That injury, however, hasn't stopped some scribes from suggesting Weiss' rights could be moved by the trade deadline.

ESPN's Pierre LeBrun doesn't think Tallon is shopping forwards Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann, but would listen to offers.

Fleischmann could have more trade value. Since last season, he's been healthier than Versteeg and posted better offensive numbers. He also has a shorter contract (two years remaining at a cap hit of $4.5 million), while Versteeg has three years left at roughly the same cap hit ($4.4 million). Versteeg, however, lacks a no-trade clause, providing Tallon a wider range of trade destinations.

Defenseman Brian Campbell has also been mentioned as a trade candidate. With the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season, the remaining three years (at $7.1 million per season) on Campbell's contract won't attract many suitors, unless the Panthers absorb a portion of his salary.

The Miami Herald recently reported Alex Kovalev is listed on the Panthers roster, but no longer with the team. He's been allowed to speak to other clubs and Tallon will move him if a rival club expresses interest.

Given the decline in Kovalev's play, however, retirement is the likely option.

It's been suggested the Panthers will revisit their brief interest last summer in Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. With the Canucks clinging to a playoff berth and Cory Schneider struggling of late, Luongo isn't expected to be moved before the trade deadline.

Vancouver could look toward the Panthers for depth at center. The Vancouver Province's Ben Kuzma suggested they kick the tires on Shawn Matthias, who's been among the few bright spots in the Panthers otherwise miserable season.

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Matthias is a restricted free agent this summer and could be among the younger players Tallon retains. However, Matthias recently said he was “sick of losing” and might relish a chance to move on to a better club.

To Buy, Sell or Stand Pat?

Speculation is growing in Toronto over potential moves by Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis to help his club clinch their first playoff berth since 2004.

The National Post's Michael Traikos wondered if Nonis would move some high-priced healthy scratches (Mike Komisarek, John-Michael Liles), shop some pending free agents for draft picks, attempt to land a first line center like Colorado's Paul Stastny or stay the course.

He also wondered if Nonis would move left winger Clarke MacArthur for a physical playoff veteran like Ryane Clowe of the San Jose Sharks.

The Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger subsequently reported Nonis is open to moving MacArthur and Tyler Bozak, but only for overwhelming offers and not because of their free agent status this summer. Nonis also didn't rule out re-signing the pair.

Likely trade candidates are Komisarek and Liles, who've been healthy scratches in recent weeks.

As for pursuing Stastny, he has another season left at $6.6 million, which is almost as good as a no-trade clause. Though Stastny's been a fixture in the rumor mill for years, the Avalanche have shown no inclination to trade him.

It doesn't make sense to trade a more productive player like MacArthur for Clowe, who has no goals and eight assists in 23 games this season.

Leafs fans can also breathe easier over the trade status of promising Jake Gardiner, as Nonis said the young blueliner won't be part of any deal for a deadline rental player.

With the Leafs in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, Nonis won't risk upsetting team chemistry with sweeping changes this close to the trade deadline.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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