The Florida Panthers recent losing skid has not only put their playoff hopes in jeopardy for another year, but apparently was enough for their owners to decide it was time to give GM Randy Sexton the green light to make changes.
In other words, the rebuilding process has started again in Florida.
Sexton got the puck rolling last week, trading checking line forward Dominic Moore to the Montreal Canadiens for a second round pick in 2011.
Sexton was unsuccessful in putting together another deal before the Olympic break, but his claim that no player on the team was untouchable should make the Panthers a popular trade target once the trade freeze is lifted March 1.
That includes underrated goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who apparently hasn’t yet agreed to waive his no-trade clause. One wonders, however, if he might have a change of heart if a Cup contender expressed interest.
Vokoun appeared to suggest as much, telling the South Florida Sun-Sentinel he’d consider waiving his clause if he were asked, depending on the situation.
Of course, salary would be a significant sticking point. Vokoun is set to earn $6.3 million next season with a salary cap hit of $5.7 million, making him a tight squeeze for teams with limited cap space like the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks, who are rumored to be seeking goaltending depth.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks wrote the Panthers are shopping forward Nathan Horton, but aren’t going to get their asking price for a player with, what Brooks called, a problematic work ethic.
That may have been an issue earlier in Horton ‘s career, but he was on pace for a career-high season – with 46 points through 51 games – until he was sidelined in late-January by a fractured tibia, which is perhaps the biggest reason for the Panthers’ recent slide in the standings.
If Sexton does shop the 24-year-old Horton, there’s bound to be plenty of interest from clubs. However, those teams might have to wait until the summer, as the local media doesn’t believe Horton will be shopped at the deadline.
• Florida’s Tomas Vokoun isn’t the only goaltender believed to be available at the trade deadline.
The Dallas Stars are working the phones in hopes of moving Marty Turco, but his $5.7 million cap hit remains a significant sticking point.
The New York Islanders could make both Martin Biron and Dwayne Roloson available, although they’ll be inclined to move the former rather than the latter.
Don’t expect the Montreal Canadiens to move Jaroslav Halak as he’s the reason they’re still in the playoff chase in the Eastern Conference.
• Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford was busy in the days leading up to the Olympic break, dealing Niclas Wallin to San Jose and Matt Cullen to Ottawa, and he probably has more deals in store once the freeze on trades is lifted.
The Raleigh News and Observer reports several teams have expressed interest in veteran left winger Ray Whitney, while pending UFA defensemen Joe Corvo and Aaron Ward could be dealt for picks and/or prospects.
Rutherford reportedly had a deal in place with the Los Angeles Kings a couple of weeks ago, but it fell through when Whitney, a pending UFA with a no-trade clause, sought a three-year contract extension while the Kings countered with one.
It’s now believed if Whitney is traded it’ll only be as a playoff rental.
• The Tampa Bay Lightning could be busy at this year’s trade deadline, but unlike recent years they won’t be sellers.
GM Brian Lawton told the St. Petersburg Times he could become a buyer if the right deal could be had. The paper suggests the Lightning need a puck-moving defenseman, another scoring winger and a third or fourth line grinder.
Looks like those Vincent Lecavalier trade rumors can be packed away for another season.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.