Kyle Okposo traded to FLA

Kyle Okposo was traded to the Florida Panthers by the Buffalo Sabres on Friday for defenseman Calle Sjalin and a conditional pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.

The seventh-round pick will become a fifth-round pick in 2024 if Florida wins the Stanley Cup.

“We are bringing in more leadership,” Panthers general manager Bill Zito said. “There is guidance and support and understanding of the other leaders. He may have ideas on how to help them, and that is invaluable.”

The Panthers also acquired Vladimir Tarasenko from the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2024 and a third-round choice in the 2025 NHL Draft. They will transfer their third-round pick in the 2026 NHL Draft in lieu of the 2024 selection if they win the Cup.

The next day, defenseman Gustav Forsling signed an eight-year contract that will begin next season.

Florida (43-17-4) leads the NHL with 90 points, one ahead of the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins. It plays the Calgary Flames at Amerant Bank Arena on Saturday (4 p.m. ET; BSFL, SN) after its six-game winning streak ended with a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

Okposo is in the final season of a one-year contract he signed with the Sabres on May 24, 2023, and can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. The 35-year-old forward has 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 61 games this season. He was named Sabres captain Oct. 8, 2022, and played his 1,000th game in the NHL on Nov. 14, 2023, a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at KeyBank Center.

"It's something that's a position I've never been in, in my entire career, basically," Okposo said after practicing with the Sabres on Tuesday, "but I've seen a lot of deadlines come and go and you see guys get moved, you see that it's part of the business. I'm going to go about my day and be professional and be who I am. I'm not going to change who I am just because of a situation I'm in. I'm here today and just trying to do the best I can to lead the group.

"And as a captain of the team, I've tried to do the best that I could to make sure that everybody felt their best every single day. I hope that the guys have felt that, and I'm going to continue to do that."

Selected by the New York Islanders with the No. 7 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, Okposo has 614 points (242 goals, 372 assists) in 1,045 regular-season games for the Islanders and Sabres, and 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

“I got texts from people saying, ‘You don’t understand what a great guy this is,’” Zito said. “That’s it, right? You want to be in a comfortable situation, want to be around good people who care. He brings all of that.”

Sjalin had three assists in 22 games this season for Charlotte in the American Hockey League and has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 61 AHL games. The native of Osterlund, Sweden, was selected by the New York Rangers in the fifth round (No. 145) of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Also on Friday, the Panthers claimed defenseman Tobias Bjornfot off waivers from the Vegas Golden Knights.

The 22-year-old has skated in three NHL games with Vegas and the Los Angeles Kings this season, and has 15 points (one goal, 14 assists) in 119 NHL games.

"Tobias is a great professional with an extremely strong work ethic," Zito said. "We are excited for him to get to work within the Panthers organization." independent correspondents George Richards and Heather Engel contributed to this report

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