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Florida Panthers trade rumors, trade deadline outlook

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Dmitry Kulikov is one of the attractive options that could be available in Florida. (USATSI)
Dmitry Kulikov is one of the attractive options that could be available in Florida. (USATSI)

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With the 2013 NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m. ET April 3, Eye on Hockey will examine whether each team is a buyer or seller at the deadline, and who each team should look to sell or receive by the deadline.

Buyers or Sellers

Mired in the basement of the NHL, the Panthers are sure sellers at the deadline. The only question that remains is what will they have left to sell?

Injuries to trade-bait candidates Jose Theodore, Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg have severely limited Dale Tallon's options to get the right kind of return for selling off the scraps.

The Panthers have a very good youth base highlighted by Jonathan Huberdeau and have some help on the way in the prospect pipeline, so there's something to at least build around. Moving some veterans for assets who can serve as more building blocks for the future should be the priority.

It is highly unlikely Dale Tallon could go without making a few moves before the deadline to get something out of this messy season.

Rumors

For weeks it's sounded like a Florida fire sale was imminent, but mounting injuries and the quiet retirement of Alexei Kovalev has left the Panthers with fewer options than they started with.

There's still a slight chance the injured Weiss could be moved according to Andy Strickland, but it's unlikely and his value would be low with unrestricted free agency looming.

Outside of its young core of rookie forwards Huberdeau and Drew Shore, defenseman Erik Gudbranson and goaltender Jacob Markstrom, it sounds like many of the Panthers could be had at the right price.

Potential Trade Bait

Pretty much everyone except the youngsters mentioned above could be available, if previous reports are to be believed.

Tomas Fleischmann is locked up for two more seasons after this, but he might be one of the most valuable trade chips left for Tallon. When a team is rebuilding, however, it has to retain some of its veteran presence. It would likely take a strong offer to pry Fleishchmann away, but his $4.5 million cap hit might not bring in the type of offer that would be worth it for Tallon.

Brian Campbell has the right kind of talent to move somewhere, but his large contract is going to be awfully tough for any team to eat, especially with the salary cap going down next year. If a team can get creative enough, Campbell perhaps could move, but it is unlikely.

As a Stanley Cup winner, Tomas Kopecky could be a target other teams would eye as the playoff chase tightens. He has defensive value and can get under opponents' skin. His $3 million contract might be a little high, but wouldn't be unmanageable for a lot of teams. Kopecky, who is tied for the team lead with 20 points, is a player worth dangling to see if anything good comes back.

Peter Mueller is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but it appears he is overcoming his concussion issues. He has just 12 points this season, which isn't great, but at 24, Mueller still has some good hockey ahead of him and has played well this year. Before concussions took their toll, Mueller scored 22 goals as a rookie.

On the blue line, Dmitry Kulikov would probably generate serious interest if he's available. At just 22, he's one of those young guys that Tallon might be better served keeping around, but he also is one of the more attractive options for teams looking to buy. With another season to go before restricted free agency, he comes with just a $2.5 million cap hit, so he's affordable beyond this season, too.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing options at this point is Shawn Matthias. Tallon will have to make a decision about the 25-year-old forward who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. With improved play despite the Panthers still scuffling in the standings, interest around Matthias could grow. A player with his size and ability could help a team in the playoff hunt, but the price is probably going up by the day.

 
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