Erik Gudbranson to Canucks, Jared McCann to Panthers in head-scratcher trade

Matt Larkin
Erik Gudbranson (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Who said we had to wait until draft day for major off-season trades to start happening? The Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks bamboozled us with a surprise trade Wednesday night, reported by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

The Panthers sent defenseman Erik Gudbranson and a 2016 fifth-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks for center Jared McCann, a 2016 second-round pick and a 2016 fourth-round pick. No salary was retained as part of the transaction, Johnston reports.

It’s a curious, interesting trade from each team’s perspective. The Canucks needed veteran defensive help. Dan Hamhuis, Matt Bartkowski and Yannick Weber are unrestricted free agents this summer, and youngsters Andrey Pedan and Nikita Tryamkin aren’t shoo-ins to be full-time NHLers next year. Gudbranson, the third overall pick in 2010, certainly fills that gap. He’ll almost certainly slot into Vancouver’s top four.

At the same time, the Canucks and GM Jim Benning paid a pretty big price. That second-round pick going Florida’s way is 33rd overall, so it’s almost like a late first-rounder. Speaking of first-rounders: so was center McCann, chosen 24th overall in 2014. McCann had an up-and-down rookie season, but he’s only 19, he managed nine goals, and it was his first and only year of professional hockey. He jumped from the OHL to the NHL, with no stop in AHL Utica. He projects as a good two-way NHL pivot. The Canucks do have Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter up the middle, but Sedin will be 36 when next season starts, so Vancouver isn’t exactly rolling in long-term depth.

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All the latest on Dale Tallon, Pavel Datsyuk and Mike Van Ryn

Dale Tallon (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Scott Luce has been either the director of scouting or director of player personnel with the Florida Panthers since 2002. And like literally every other person in the talent evaluation business, he has some home runs and he has some skeletons in his closet.

So when the Panthers said they relieved him of his duties, saying they wanted a new voice when it came to scouting, there’s no reason not to take them for their word. Luce’s recent work has been splendid, but that many years in one position is a long time for anyone in this business.

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Jagr to stay retired from international competition, won’t play for Czechs at World Cup

Jared Clinton
Jaromir Jagr (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Fans hoping to get a glimpse of Jaromir Jagr at the World Cup of Hockey this September will be disappointed, as the veteran winger confirmed to Czech Republic GM Martin Rucinsky it’s a no-go for the upcoming tournament.

Rucinsky told Czech publication Denik Sport that Jagr took a week to think about the decision, according to NHL.com. After taking his time to think about it, the 44-year-old winger, who announced his retirement from international competition following the 2015 World Championship, has decided to stay retired and remain off the roster for the tournament.

“We spoke to each other during the weekend and his final decision was he wouldn’t be going,” Rucinsky said, via NHL.com. “It would be too difficult for him to get ready for such an important tournament during the summer. And he said at last year’s World Championship that he was done with the national team. He also will have a lot of work with Kladno [the Czech league team Jagr owns]. He wants to do some work with the team and therefore wouldn’t be able to get ready for the World Cup in time.” Read more

Panthers’ off-season shakeup continues with firing of director of scouting Scott Luce

Jared Clinton
Scott Luce (right) with Aleksander Barkov during the 2013 draft (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Coming off of arguably the most successful season in franchise history, the Florida Panthers surprised some by shuffling the deck in their front office and the changes keep coming.

Last week, the Panthers officially announced they had moved GM Dale Tallon from his position in the front office to an expanded role as the president of hockey operations and had filled Tallon’s former post with Tom Rowe, who had been acting as the team’s associate GM. To replace Rowe, the Panthers then moved Eric Joyce and Steve Werier to assistant GM roles. And though some would have expected that to be the end of the movement for the Panthers, that’s not the case.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Sunday that the Panthers had let go of longtime director of scouting Scott Luce, which was confirmed Monday by the Miami Herald’s George Richards. According to Richards, Rowe said the Panthers “wanted a different voice” as the team’s head of scouting, but that seems bizarre given the crop of current players and prospects Luce has helped build. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Thomas Greiss’ success means Jaroslav Halak could hit the trade market

Thomas Greiss.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Goaltender Thomas Greiss’ solid performance filling in for sidelined starter Jaroslav Halak could spell the end of the latter’s tenure with the New York Islanders. Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports Isles GM Garth Snow sang Greiss’ praises, suggesting he’s ready to be a full-time starter.

Staple notes the Islanders currently carry three netminders with Halak, Greiss and promising J-F Berube. He points out the oft-injured Halak voiced his displeasure over the setup and suggests there’s a rift between the veteran and management.

The 31-year-old Halak has two years remaining on his contract. He could hit the trade block this summer. Staple doubts he’ll fetch much of a return and would be more of a cost-cutting deal for other roster moves.

Halak also lacks a no-trade clause and there are clubs (Calgary, Carolina, Toronto) in need of goaltending depth. However, his injury history and $4.5-million annual cap hit could adversely affect his trade value.

WHAT IS PANTHERS LONG-TERM PLAN WITH GUDBRANSON?

The Florida Panthers recent re-signing of defenseman Erik Gudbranson to a one-year, $3.5-million contract extension raised some eyebrows. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa notes the 24-year-old Gudbranson is of the age where high-end blueliners like himself get multiyear deals. Shinzawa speculates Panthers management might not be enamoured with him.

Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel claims the move was made to provide the Panthers with salary-cap flexibility for next season to re-sign rising center Vincent Trocheck. He also reports they’re among the clubs interested in former NHL winger Alexander Radulov, who spent the last four seasons in the KHL.

Gudbranson already has five seasons under his belt with the Panthers. Despite missing time this season to a concussion, he was among their leaders in hits (150), blocked shots (73) and ice time (20:06). He also averaged over 26 minutes of ice time per game in the post-season.

Gudbranson’s ongoing improvement as a shutdown defenseman should keep him part of the Panthers’ long-term plans. If not, he’ll attract considerable interest via free agency next summer.

EXPECT ONLY MINOR CHANGES TO CAPITALS IN OFF-SEASON

Don’t expect the Washington Capitals’ early playoff exit to result in a significant roster overhaul.

Earlier this week, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan addressed the media for the first time since his club’s elimination by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshuyan reports MacLellan is “pretty content” with his core. He’ll look at bolstering the third line, specifically his ninth or tenth forwards.

MacLellan also intends to get restricted free agents Marcus Johansson, Dmitry Orlov, Tom Wilson and Michael Latta re-signed. His plans to tweak his third line could mean cutting loose unrestricted free agents Mike Richards and Jason Chimera. The 37-year-old Chimera, however, tells Khurshudyan he hopes to return with the Capitals next season.

Adding speed and scoring to the third line is crucial. The Penguins third line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel did the most damage to the Capitals in their second-round series. MacLellan will likely attempt to emulate that model.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

Florida Panthers remove GM title from Dale Tallon – but don’t worry, he’s OK with it

Ryan Kennedy
Dale Tallon (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Florida Panthers are coming off their most successful regular season ever, posting 100-plus points for the first time in franchise history and winning the Cats’ second division title in two decades. So of course, they moved their GM.

OK, so Dale Tallon has been promoted to the new position of president of hockey operations, but the timing is interesting. Tom Rowe is now the GM, with advanced stat guys Eric Joyce and Steve Werier as assistant GMs. From the way the Panthers are talking, this new arrangement is far from a vote of non-confidence on Tallon and more an affirmation of the democratic nature of how a modern sports team is run now.

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Panthers re-sign restricted free agent Gudbranson to one-year, $3.5-million deal

Jared Clinton
Erik Gudbranson (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson’s game took a step forward in 2015-16 and Florida has rewarded the 24-year-old blueliner with a one-year, $3.5-million contract for next season.

In his fifth full season with the Panthers, Gudbranson’s game started to finally round into the form Florida had been hoping to see from the 2010 third-overall pick. After spending the first four seasons of his career as a second- or third-pairing blueliner, Gudbranson carried a heavier load throughout the regular season, averaging more than 20 minutes per game for the first time in his career and contributing two goals and nine points along the way.

Not relied upon for offense, though, Gudbranson’s biggest contributions came defensively. He was drafted to be a big, tough, shutdown defender, and that’s exactly how the Panthers tried to utilize him this past season. On the penalty kill, he logged more than 200 minutes of ice time in 64 games and no Panthers defender who saw the same amount of ice time as Gudbranson had a higher percentage of defensive zone starts. Read more

Report: Rowe now Panthers’ GM, Tallon moved to president of hockey operations

Jared Clinton
Dale Tallon (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 2015-16 campaign was the best in Panthers history, but the powers that be in Florida don’t appear satisfied with simply making the post-season. After a stellar regular season that saw the Panthers win the Atlantic Division, the front office will reportedly have a new look in 2016-17.

Saturday evening, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Panthers could be moving GM Dale Tallon up the ladder to president of hockey operations, sliding Tom Rowe from associate GM to GM and putting Eric Joyce into the assistant GM role. Friedman’s report was backed up by the Sun Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov and Miami Herald’s George Richards, who both added that Steve Werier, the Panthers’ vice president of business and legal affairs, will also get a bump up to serve as assistant GM alongside Joyce.

The shift in the front office may be surprising given Florida had the first 100-point season in franchise history, but it appears to be a move that came because the Panthers are looking “to incorporate more mathematical analysis when it comes to making roster decisions,” according to Richards. Maybe the most surprising thing about the changes, though, are that they come so soon after Tallon signed a long-term extension that will reportedly keep him a part of the Panthers’ organization until the end of the 2018-19 season. Read more