SUNRISE, Fla. – The future is now for the Florida Panthers.
In anticipation of their fifth playoff appearance in franchise history, the Panthers made a slew of moves to bolster their present roster while not mortgaging their promising future, acquiring three veteran players in three separate trades this afternoon.
A seismic Saturday of wheeling and dealing began when the Panthers acquired forward Jiri Hudler from the Calgary Flames in exchange for a 2016 second-round pick and a 2018 fourth-round pick. Not long after that, the organization made two more shrewd moves, sending a 2016 third-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers for forward Teddy Purcell and a 2016 sixth-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings for defenseman Jakub Kindl.
"We identified what we wanted to build on," said Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon. "We needed a presence on the power play, we needed experience, we wanted a good puck-moving defenseman. We also thought that we needed to give ourselves three really good scoring lines."
Hudler, 32, has recorded 35 points (10-25—35) in 53 games with Calgary this season. The Olomouc, Czech Republic native has notched 155 goals and 406 points in 657 games split between Calgary (2012-16) and Detroit (2003-09, 2010-12). A Stanley Cup champion with Detroit in 2008, Hudler has recorded 41 points (16-25—41) in 77 postseason games.
"I’ve watched (Hudler) closely in Detroit and Calgary," said Tallon, "And he had a magnificent year last year."
This is the first time that Hudler has been traded in his NHL career, but he's excited by the thought of joining an upstart Panthers team.
"I didn’t know where I was going to end up," said Hudler, who has played internationally with Panthers winger Jaromir Jagr. "I’m really excited, really happy to go to a young team like that, especially with the way they play."
Purcell, 30, has recorded 32 points (11-21—32) in 61 games with Edmonton this season. The St. John's, Newfoundland native has tallied 98 goals and 294 points in 544 NHL games split between Edmonton (2014-16), Tampa Bay (2009-2014) and Los Angeles (2007-2010). In 22 postseason contests, all with the Lightning, he has notched 18 points (7-11—18).
That postseason experience, Tallon notes, was hard to ignore.
"He makes other players around him better," said Tallon. "He’s a smart player, he’s good on the power play and I like what he did a few years back, almost a point-per-game in the playoffs."
Kindl, 29, has recorded six points (2-4—6) and a plus-three rating in 25 games this season with Detroit. The Sumperk, Czech Republic native has registered 16 goals and 68 points in 273 NHL games with the Red Wings (2009-16), while also notching five points (1-4—5) in 19 career postseason games.
And although he believes Florida's defensemen have performed admirably this season, Tallon stressed his desire to shore up two of the team's weaker areas – depth and a powerplay proficiency – and believed that Kindl fit the bill.
The Panthers entered Saturday’s contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets as the top defensive team in the league, allowing 2.28 goals per game on average. With the addition of these three players, however, Tallon hopes that Florida’s 11th-ranked offense will soon match its formidable defense as the team looks to build a balanced attack heading into what looks to be a promising postseason.
"We’re ahead of schedule," said Tallon. "These guys give us solid experience, good playmaking ability, good hockey sense. It just completes our team a little bit more."
As for the possibility of making more moves in the next day-and-a-half, Tallon said that he's happy with the depth created by today's moves, but if ever there's a chance to improve the roster, he won't rule anything out.
"Who says we’re done?"
"We want to win and we want to put the best team out there."
Kyle Morrison contributed to this article