Rumor Roundup: Is a Panthers sell-off coming?

Lyle Richardson
Panthers

The Florida Panthers firing their coaching staff Friday was overshadowed by the Edmonton Oilers signing Ilya Bryzgalov and trading Ladislav Smid to Calgary.

It wasn’t a surprising move by Panthers GM Dale Tallon. His club was off to a horrible start (3-9-4) and it was rumored coach Kevin Dineen could lose his job if the situation failed to improve. A dispiriting 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins Thursday sealed Dineen’s fate, as Tallon replaced him with Peter Horachek, who coached the Panthers’ AHL affiliate in San Antonio.

Tallon stated the sacking of the coaching staff was “just the beginning of our changes that need to be made,” adding if the players failed to respond they wouldn’t be Panthers for long.

It’s been speculated since mid-October Tallon would shake up his roster. The Ottawa Sun cited sources claiming the Panthers were prepared to move any of their veteran players. Tallon subsequently dismissed that report, but in the wake of Friday’s coaching change, ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reported the Panthers GM spent weeks calling around the league searching for a deal.

Earlier last week on Sportsnet’s Prime Time Sports, Tallon claimed the limited cap space of most clubs was impacting the trade market.

It could take weeks, perhaps months, for Tallon to find suitable trade partners. Like the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers (two other teams desperately searching for season-saving deals), the Panthers are hampered by the high number of teams (23) with limited cap space.

Tallon also admitted teams were interested in young players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, whom he has no interest in trading for short-term fixes.

The first roster moves, meanwhile, began over the weekend, with Ryan Whitney placed on waivers (he was unclaimed) and goalie Jacob Markstrom demoted to San Antonio.

It’s believed forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg, Scottie Upshall, Shawn Matthias, Brad Boyes and Marcel Goc, along with defensemen Tom Gilbert and Dmitry Kulikov, are among the veterans who could be shopped.

Only Boyes, Goc, Gilbert and Kulikov carry affordable contracts that expire at season’s end. Other than Versteeg (signed through 2015-16), the rest have one season remaining on their deals. Fleischmann and Upshall also have no-trade clauses, giving them control over their potential trade destinations.

Kulikov is reportedly garnering the most interest in the trade market, but the 23-year-old could be among those younger players Tallon prefers to retain.

Whenever Tallon finally moves some of his veterans, he’ll likely seek promising – and affordable – young players, prospects and/or draft picks in return.

By the time more teams with a willingness to deal jump into the trade market, their offers could come too late to save the Panthers’ season.

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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