All of a sudden it’s hip to rent in Florida.
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon completed three separate trades on Saturday, swapping futures for short-term assets to upgrade his club ahead of an unexpected playoff run.
In the first deal, Tallon sent his second-round selection in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2018 to the Calgary Flames for winger Jiri Hudler. The 32-year-old left-shooting right winger has 10 goals and 25 assists in 53 games this season, one year after setting a career high with 31 goals.
Later, the Panthers sent a 2016 third rounder to Edmonton for winger Teddy Purcell and a 2017 sixth rounder to Detroit for defenseman Jakub Kindl.
Purcell, who had 11 goals and 32 points in 61 games with the Oilers this season, will likely join Hudler on a retooled third line alongside center Nick Bjugstad. That’s a significant bump in experience and production over rookies Logan Shaw and Kyle Rau, who have 43 NHL games and seven points between them.
“We [now] have three wonderful scoring lines and a fourth which is invigorated and able to play a very aggressive forechecking style,” Tallon said. “We have depth at all positions and this gives our coaches an opportunity for different looks.”
Kindl, who passed through waivers in January, has spent most of the past two months with Grand Rapids of the AHL. The 29-year-old puck mover was acquired to add veteran depth to the blue line in case of injury, but could get an early look on the third pair. Willie Mitchell and Erik Gudbranson have struggled to find consistency in their games, especially when skating together and the unit might benefit from a different mix.
All three newcomers are expected to get a good look on the power play as well. The Panthers have struggled all season with the man advantage, and came into Saturday’s play ranked 27th at just 16.6%, the lowest success rate of any team in playoff contention.
All told, it was a solid bit of work by Tallon, who managed to address some obvious problem areas without sacrificing any of the organization’s top assets. There were larger plays to be made, but Tallon understands his team isn’t a true contender. Not yet, anyway. And so this way, he keeps his powder dry for down the road, while giving the kids on this team the support they need to make the most of their first swim through the postseason.
Elsewhere on Saturday, the Penguins sent a third-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defenseman Justin Schultz. That’s a big win for the Oilers, even if the deal required them to retain 50% of his $3.9 million salary for the rest of this season.
The departure of Schultz, who came into the league riding a wave of free-agent hype back in 2012, won’t be mourned in Edmonton. The 25-year-old was a hazard in his own end, and there were questions about his commitment to the team. When GM Peter Chiarelli talked this week about his unhappiness with the Oilers, it was widely thought that Schultz was one of the cancers he was looking to cut out of his locker room.
To get a draft pick then, especially a third, is a big win for Chiarelli, who took a little heat for getting the same return on Purcell.
The Pens obviously see Schultz as a reclamation project. “We’re hoping that a change of scenery will be good," Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford said on the team’s official website. “He’s very good on the offensive side. He still needs some work on the defensive side.”
Yeah. Some. And maybe Rutherford’s right. Maybe a change of scenery is exactly what he needs. Maybe in time he’ll figure out the game under the guidance of a new coach and playing within a new structure.
But Schultz is a lottery ticket and the Pens need help on the blueline now.
If Rutherford makes another move before Monday, this swap was a risk worth taking. If not though, he’ll have a hard time defending the decision to waste an asset on Schultz when there were viable defenders on the market who could have helped right away.