The NHL Trade Deadline is right around the corner, and it’s no secret that the Panthers are going to be active. Several reports have stated that the Cats have been in the market for a defensemen for months. It’s no surprise- the Panthers already have a historically good offense, and someone to shore up the back end should solidify their status as Stanley Cup favorites.With that being said, what options are out there for the Cats to improve their blue line, and which of those options make the most sense?
One name that has been linked with the Panthers, as well as other teams, for months is Ben Chiarot of the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs sit dead last in the league with a 8-29-7 record, and are very much looking to be sellers at this year’s deadline, and Chiarot is one of the notable pieces that could be leaving Montreal. With that being said, the Panthers would probably be better off pulling out of the Chiarot sweepstakes. The Canadiens are reportedly seeking a first round pick plus other assets in return for the blue liner, and, to be blunt, Chiarot is not worth that kind of return. His only having 37 points in 151 games over the last three seasons is to be expected, as he has made his name in the league as a defensive minded player. However, his defensive analytics over the past 3 seasons have also been subpar. This season, he has a 42.37% Expected Goals For % (xGF%) and a 45.37% Corsi For % (CF%). In his eight NHL seasons, his xGF% has exceeded 50% only one time. While the Cats could take a gamble on Chiarot and hope playing on an elite Panthers team will boost his analytics somewhat, the fact is that he’s been a subpar player throughout his NHL career, and is not worth the return he is reported to be receiving.
The Seattle Kraken have struggled to find the win column in their inaugural season. With their 15-27-4 record putting them at 30th in league wide standings, the newest NHL franchise is expected to sell some pieces at this year’s deadline. One of the pieces rumored to be available is captain Mark Giordano. The 38 year old defenseman spent 15 years and played over 900 games with the Calgary Flames before being selected by Seattle in last year’s expansion draft. This season, Giordano has potted 4 goals and 14 assists in 40 games on the Kraken blue line. Despite having a GF% of 43.75% on a struggling Seattle team, Giordano has an xGF% of 51.75%, showing that some of his numbers have fallen victim to Seattle’s subpar goaltending. Giordano is a veteran defenseman who can still contribute at both ends of the ice, and he’d fit in nicely on the Panther’s back end.
It’s not very often that the Panthers have a chance to acquire a “hometown hero”, but Jakob Chychrun would be just that. The 23 year old was born and raised in Boca Raton, Florida, and began his playing career with the Florida Jr. Panthers organizations. Chychrun is having a down year on a struggling Arizona Coyotes team, registering only 2 goals and 10 points in 34 games, as well as a measly xGF% of 44.65%. However, just this prior season, he scored a whopping 18 goals and 23 assists for 41 points in 56 games played to go along with an xGF% of 51.58%. Despite having a down year this season, it is clear that Chychrun is a legitimate top 4 defenseman at a relatively young age. With stars like Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar to lessen Chychrun’s workload in Florida, he would likely be put in the perfect situation to revert to his impressive form from last season. Furthermore, Chychrun would come locked into an extremely reasonable contract carrying a $4.6 million cap hit for the next three years after this one. Trading for Chychrun would cost a pretty penny, but the Cats have the pieces to get a deal done, and Chychrun could be a huge piece in Florida’s top 4 for years to come.
Calvin de Haan
The 2021-22 Chicago Blackhawks have been a mess, both on and off the ice. The Hawks are currently well outside the playoff hunt, and are reportedly open to trading just about anybody on the roster for the right price. One player from Chicago who has been linked to the Panthers is Calvin de Haan, who is certainly an intriguing option on the blue line. de Haan is a defense-first defensemen, which is exactly what the Panthers are in the market for. His defensive analytics during his time in Chicago aren’t anything special, posting a combined xGF% of 47.69% in his three seasons as a Blackhawk. However, it’s worth it to note that Chicago’s poor coaching schemes over the past several years don’t exactly provide an environment where defensive defenseman can thrive easily, and de Haan has ranked in the top two among Blackhawks defensemen in xGF% throughout his tenure with the team. Furthermore, de Haan’s career xGF% before becoming a Blackhawk were great: he posted an xGF% over 50% in each of his first seven seasons in the league. A veteran D-man with a strong track record, the 30 year old de Haan would be a solid add to shore up the Panthers’ defensive game.