Florida acquires defenseman Brandon Montour from Buffalo

The Florida Panthers have acquired 26-year-old defenseman Brandon Montour from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a third round pick. The trade was first reported by David Pagnotta. Kevin Weekes added on, saying the return was a third round pick. 

 

Montour has one year remaining on his $3.85 million contract, he will be a UFA this offseason.

 

The Brantford, Ont. native was selected 55th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2014 NHL Draft. He was traded to Buffalo for a first-round pick and Brendan Guhle at the 2019 NHL trade deadline. 

 

This season in Buffalo, Montour had 14 points in 38 games and was a minus 13. The Sabres are currently sitting at the bottom of the NHL and rank near the bottom of the league in team defense.

 

Montour’s best season came in 2017-2018 when he put up 32 points in 80 games with the Ducks.

 

The NHL trade deadline is two days away on April 12.

Florida Panthers make deal, clear cap space

The Florida Panthers have acquired forward Lucas Wallmark and defenseman Lucas Carlsson from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forwards Brett Connolly, Henrik Borgstrom, defenseman Riley Stillman and a seventh-round pick, as reported by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

 

Wallmark, 25, played in seven regular season games as well as two playoff games for the Cats last season after he was acquired from Carolina as part of the Vincent Trocheck trade. Wallmark appeared in 16 games for Chicago this season, he will be a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) after this year. His current cap hit is $950k.

 

Carlsson, 23, split time between Chicago and their AHL affiliate, Rockford. He will also be an RFA after this season. The Swedish defenseman’s current cap hit is $792,500. 

 

Connolly has been in and out of the Panthers’ lineup all season. He has bounced between the active roster and taxi squad. The trade clears his $3.5 million AAV contract which was set to run through the 2022-2023 season. The 28-year-old had 4 points in 21 games this season with the Panthers.

 

Stillman, 23, played in eight games this season and has only played in 43 total games in his NHL career. The Panthers drafted Stillman 114th overall in the 2016 draft.

 

Borgstrom, also 23, was Florida’s 2016 first-round pick. The Finnish prospect only appeared in 54 games with the Panthers since he was drafted. Borgstrom is currently playing for HIFK in Liiga, Finland’s pro league.

 

With this trade, Florida clears additional cap space for both this season and for the future. Aleksander Barkov’s contract expires after next season, Jonathan Huberdeau’s deal expires after the 2022-2023 season. Capfriendly has Florida’s deadline capspace north of $18 million after these moves. 

 

The NHL trade deadline is April 12.

Panthers win an afterthought after injury to Aaron Ekblad

The Florida Panthers completed the sweep on Dallas this weekend with a 4-1 win against the Stars on Sunday night. Unfortunately for the Cats, this win was an afterthought after their star defenseman Aaron Ekblad went down with an injury midway through the second period.

 

Ekblad took an awkward fall near the boards after a collision with a Stars player and had to be taken off the ice with a stretcher. 

 

The 25-year-old has been with the team since 2014 when he was selected first overall by the Panthers in the 2014 NHL draft. Ekblad was having a career year this season, currently he is tied for the league lead in goals by a defenseman with 11 and is ranked top 20 in points for his position.

 

As of now, we do not know how much time Ekblad will miss. Any amount of time without him is a big loss for the Panthers, he leads all skaters in total ice time, averaging 25:31 a game and is the team’s number one defenseman. 

 

On top of Ekblad’s injury, captain Aleksander Barkov has been out the last four games with a lower body injury and Patric Hornqvist has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury.

Panthers fall to Lightning in physical rematch

At the end of the first period, the Florida Panthers were probably at least satisfied with their performance. They were scoreless, but so were the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

At the end of the second, the Panthers were down 4-0 en route to a demoralizing 6-1 loss on Saturday night at the BB&T Center. 

The Lightning suffered an embarrassing 5-2 loss on Thursday night to the Panthers, their Central Division rivals. Apparently, they had had enough. Even without captain Steven Stamkos, Tampa was able to put together a litany of scoring chances in the second period that Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was simply unable to stop. Conversely, the Cats couldn’t find a way to get past Andrei Vasilevskiy, who totaled 33 total saves for a .971 save percentage. 

The lone Panthers goal of the night came in the third period when Brett Connolly and Frank Vatrano teamed up to slide one past Andrei Vasilevskiy. But the celebration was short-lived. Less than a minute later Tampa’s Alexander Volkov scored the Lightning’s fifth of the night, effectively squashing any desperate hopes at an unlikely but not completely impossible comeback for Florida.

“We lost our composure when they got ahead,” head coach Joel Quenville said. “The game just got away from us.”

Both Radko Gudas and Patric Hornqvist made their own attempts to turn the tide by dropping gloves with Blake Coleman and Yanni Gourde respectively but all efforts fell short. MacKenzie Weegar also scuffled with Killorn late in the first and the two exchanged words even after moving to the box. 

The loss keeps the Panthers (8-2-2) at the second position in the Central Division behind the Lightning (10-2-1). They play the third game of the series in Tampa Bay on Monday.

Five Takeaways from Florida Panthers’ win over Blue Jackets

The Florida Panthers came out on top of a wild comeback thriller against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. This was Florida’s first game in a week after their two game series against Carolina was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Hurricanes organization. Florida looked like the stronger team tonight but it wasn’t the prettiest of wins. Here are the takeaways from the game.

 

#1: Sergei Bobrovsky’s play put the Panthers in a hole early on.

 

After a subpar 2019-2020 campaign with the Panthers, the $70 million goalie looks like he hasn’t changed. In the opening minutes of the game, Bobrovsky gave up two weak goals on Columbus’ first two shots. After the Panthers clawed back to make it a 2-2 game, Bobrovsky let in a short handed goal on another saveable puck. The two-time Vezina winner couldn’t seem to find his groove in regulation despite his team keeping Columbus to just 17 shots through three periods. Bob stood his ground in the overtime and shootout, but he didn’t help his team at all by giving up those early goals. If his performance continues to hinder the team like this, promoting Chris Dreidger to the starter shouldn’t be out of the question.

 

#2: The penalty kill was spectacular, going 6/6.

 

It’s never a good sight when your team takes six penalties in a game. Luckily for Florida, their 12 penalty minutes didn’t lead to a goal against. The penalty kill (pk) unit was able to not only kill off all the penalties, but also generate a few short handed chances the other way. Each time Florida killed a penalty, it completely took the momentum away from Columbus. One of the six penalty kills came during the overtime when Frank Vatrano took a tripping penalty. The team had to kill a 4-on-3 to stay alive in the game. Last season the Panthers penalty kill ranked twentieth in the NHL with a 78.49 penalty killing percentage. An improved pk unit will be extremely valuable down the stretch in this condensed season. 

 

#3: New Panthers shine once again.

 

Florida’s team looks completely different this season. The offseason acquisitions of Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist, Alexander Wennberg and Anthony Duclair paid dividends tonight against Columbus. The four first-year Panthers combined for six points, while Hornqvist got the game-tying goal with two seconds left in regulation and the shootout winner. Florida moved to 3-0-0 for the first time in franchise history.

 

#4: The first line controlled the game from the jump.

 

Aleksander Barkov is known around the league as one of the best two-way centres in the game. Heading into this season, head coach Joel Quenneville decided to split up Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to provide more balance across the top 6. As they did against Chicago, the line of Barkov, Verhaeghe and Duclair controlled the game. Columbus couldn’t find a way to stop the constant pressure from this unit. Between Verhaeghe winning loose puck battles, Duclair walking past defenders and Barkov ripping pucks towards goal, this line was nothing short of dominant. The three of them combined for two goals and five points on the night. 

 

#5: Aleksander Barkov was more aggressive.

 

Throughout his career, Barkov has never been a selfish player, sometimes he was too unselfish for his own benefit. In the past Barkov often looked to dish the puck to his teammates rather than taking the shot himself. It looked like Barkov flipped a switch tonight, he came into the game with a shooter’s mentality. The captain led the game with eight shots on goal and found the back of the net once on a beautiful shot from the slot. An aggressive Barkov will keep goalies guessing and it will ultimately help evolve his game more as a two-way playmaking centre.  

Florida Panthers are own worst enemy in loss to Toronto

This is a game that the Florida Panthers should have won. Furthermore, it was inexcusable loss. After being up 3-1, the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four straight goals.

Kasperi Kapanen scored a goal with 2:17 in the first period on the power play to make it a 3-2 game. Defensively, the Florida Panthers looked discombobulated, as Kapanen’s shot deflected off Aaron Ekblad. The Panthers could never clear out of the zone and that resulted in a goal. Things got tighter, but the Panthers had ample opportunities to close the door.

Austin Matthews made the game a bit tighter as he was able to find the puck out of traffic in front of the net and put it home to make it a 3-3 game. That was scored with 18:58 left in the first period.

From there, it was a complete collapse for the Florida Panthers. After a scoreless second period for both clubs, Toronto managed to score two goals in the third.

William Nylander’s go-ahead goal was thanks to a turnover in the Florida zone  from Frank Vatrano. Again, it was more of the same for Florida. They just could not seem to clear it out of their own zone, and Toronto capitalized. This is exactly what I was afraid of. The goal by Nylander made it a 4-3 game.

The final goal was an empty-netter scored by Justin Holt. That just added more salt to the wound.

The Florida Panthers were their own worst enemy

Overall, it was another frustrating game where the defense could just not keep it together. Not only that, Florida kept shooting themselves in the foot. Turnovers in their own zone, combined with sloppy puck control led to a mess.

It would be easy to blame Sergei Bobrovsky. He did the best he could with the difficult situation Thursday. He had 24 saves on the evening.

This is exactly what I was afraid of. The Florida Panthers have been their own worst enemy many times this season. Toronto is a team with talent that can capitalize. They did that Thursday . Florida is a team that is very talented. However, if they keep making the same mistakes defensively, they will not get very far. This is a young team for sure. However, the Panthers don’t have much room to play with. They shot themselves in the foot tonight in a game that was a crucial one.

I hate to say this, but kudos to Toronto. They kept playing hard throughout the course of the game, and forced Florida to make untimely errors. They kept attacking, and it worked.

Florida needs to fix their mistakes quickly, particularly defensively. Puck management in their own zone should be a focal point practice before they take the ice against Chicago on Saturday.

Florida Panthers: Defense will need to be on their toes against Toronto

The Florida Panthers have a tough contest ahead of them as the Toronto Maple Leafs are next up on the schedule Thursday. After losing to a Zamboni driver on Saturday, the Maple Leafs fared much better in their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Beating Tampa Bay 4-3, they had into Thursday’s action with a couple of hot goal scorers.

For starters, look no further than John Tavares. He had two goals on Tuesday, showing just how explosive he is and how consistent he has been over the past couple of years.  He has recorded five points in his last five games.

In the month of February, Mitch Marner has had a fantastic time finding the goal-scorers. He has recorded two goals and 10 assists so far in the month. He had an assist on Tuesday night against Tampa Bay. With the assist, he has now recorded three points in his last five games.

Although the Toronto Maple Leafs may struggle with consistency, they are still a team full of potent scorers. The real question is to whether they will show up each and every night.

Florida Panthers need to play strong defense to counter speed

Even with the inconsistencies, the Florida Panthers have to play better defense on Thursday. Defense has not been a strong suit for them this year. As result, Bobrovsky  he has struggled. He had a great game on Tuesday however, giving up one goal to the Arizona Coyotes in what was a 2-1 win. In 60 minutes of play, he made 37 saves. This was certainly an improvement from some of his past starts.

This Toronto team skates fast and shoots often. Borovsky is going to need to be on top his game, and I don’t trust the Florida defense to get back in time. This is a very balanced Toronto team who will need to capitalize on mistakes.

The Florida Panthers will need to be on their toes all game. This will be a crucial  game for the defense, and a win on Thursday could do wonders in boosting the conference. As long as Florida plays back and focuses  on staying in front of their man, they should be able to have a chance at success.

Florida Panthers: Team needs to test Darcy Kuemper early and often

As the Florida Panthers get set to take on the Arizona Coyotes  they have a golden chance to pick up a victory. Arizona will be sending out goalie Darcy Kuemper. If I’m Florida, I am licking my chops.

Kuemper has not played in a game in more than two months due to a lower-body injury. He was called up from AHL Tucson on Sunday. Prior to his injury, he was playing extremely well. He recorded a 15-8  mark and had a 2.17 goals-against average. He tallied a .929 save percentage in 25 starts.

This is a golden opportunity for Florida to make an impact and get the lead early. As good as Kuemper was prior to his injury, he hasn’t seen NHL action in a while. The Panthers need to make sure to get pucks on him early.

Florida is only seven points out of a playoff spot. Columbus currently holds the second wild-card spot with 76 points. Florida currently has 70 on the season. They come into Tuesday’s action having lost two games in a row. Arizona is sitting comfortably in the second wild-card spot, having beaten Tampa Bay 7-3 on Saturday.

Florida Panthers need to test Arizona Coyotes goalie

The Florida Panthers need to make sure they test Kuemper early. Creating traffic in front of the net will be key. Screens  will be crucial offensively.  Shielding his vision via screens and moving in front of the net will be paramount for Florida.

Driving towards the net instead of taking simple shots from the point should be a focus. That will put more pressure on Kuemper Injury or not, Kuemper has proven to be a solid goaltender. He is not going to be beaten  easily.

The offensive output for Florida is going to need to be strong. Here they have a golden opportunity to face a goalie who is trying to get his game going again. They need to be active and shoot frequently. Getting pucks towards the net and creating traffic should  lead to success.

The Florida Panthers need this win, and they have an opportunity to make it happen.

Florida Panthers: Defense struggles again in difficult loss

With the Florida Panthers and the Philadelphia Flyers meeting on Thursday,  the Panthers needed to put together a strong showing to remain in the playoff hunt. On home ice, they had a perfect opportunity to put themselves right in the playoff mix. Instead of winning, the Panthers were defeated 6-3.

This was a game the Florida Panthers completely squandered on home ice. As they took on the Philadelphia Flyers, they got into a hole and  could never dig themselves out. in what is becoming a common theme, the defense was flat. They played on their heels for a majority of the game, and that did not bode well for a win.

Florida Panthers fall behind early

It started with three straight goals in the first frame. They were never able to fully put together a comeback. Jonathan Huberdeau finally scored for the Florida Panthers 33 seconds into the third frame. However, by that time, the Florida Panthers already put themselves in a four-goal deficit. Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov scored their 20th and 17th goals on the season. However, the late comeback was still not enough.

Thursday night, defensive play was the Achilles’ heel again. It’s been a problem throughout most of the season. Once again, they left the goaltender hung out to dry. Thursday night, Sergei Bobrovsky  had another rough affair. After giving up three goals on nine shots, he was pulled at the end of the second frame.

Sam Montembeault struggled in relief. He gave up three goals on 19 shots in 40 minutes of ice time. No matter who the Florida Panthers put out there, the Flyers were able to find ways to score. Both goaltenders had a rough night, but it also spoke to the fact that the defense was not up to par. The goalies could only do so much, and they struggled containing Philadelphia’s offensive attack.

James van Riemsdyk had a huge game for Philadelphia. He scored a goal and two assists. Scoring the opening goal at 4:24 in the first frame, he set the tone early.

Now, the Florida Panthers take on the Oilers Saturday looking to take back some momentum. One thing is becoming apparent. Florida needs to quickly address the defensive woes as we get closer to the playoffs.

Florida Panthers: Sergei Bobrovsky has little room for error Thursday

It’s not too often that a goalie can be the focal point of the game, but such is life with Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers. Bobrovsky has struggled over his past couple of outings, and the Philadelphia Flyers will be a tough test for him on Thursday night.

Bobrovsky has not won a game since February 3, losing three decisions in between. One of those was to the Flyers. In that contest, he gave up three goals on February 10 in what was a 4-1 loss for the Panthers. Ivan Provorov, James Van Riemsdyk, and Travis Sanheim each scored goals against Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky in rut for Florida Panthers

Bobrovsky is in a bit of a rut right now. He has struggled for much of the 2020 calendar year, and he has a tough road from here on out. Some of it has to do with the defense of the Florida Panthers . However, a lot of it can be traced back to Bobrovsky’s play. He has not looked comfortable in net, and that is especially apparent during his three-game losing streak.

He is definitely going to be challenged Thursday. This is a Philadelphia Flyers team that is on a bit of a roll right now. They did lose to the Islanders by a 5-3 score on Monday. However, they have won two out of their last three games. This includes beating Washington 7-2 last Saturday.

The Eastern Conference is in the midst of a close playoff race. A win on Thursday for the Panthers could help them inch closer to the eighth spot in the conference.

Prior to Thursday’s game, Florida is in the 10th spot with 66 points. Toronto holds the eighth spot with 68 points.  Philadelphia is clinging to the seventh spot with 69 points. There is not much that separates these two teams from switching places.

Bobrovsky needs to have a solid game on Thursday. He needs to be alert and ready. Philadelphia has a balanced scoring attack. Bobrovsky found that out the hard way the last time these two met. If he can have a clean first period and withstand the initial rush from Philadelphia, he should be in much better shape than he has been the past three games. He needs to be on top of his game Thursday as each game becomes more important for the Florida Panthers.