The Florida Panthers blueline depth suffered a serious blow last week when Aaron Ekblad was placed on long-term injury reserve with a lower-body injury. GM Bill Zito indicated it won't end the 26-year-old defenseman's season, but he will be sidelined for at least another two weeks due to LTIR conditions.
Replacing his top defenseman won't be easy for Zito. The Panthers' defense corps was weakened by the departure of Ben Chiarot to free agency. Shipping MacKenzie Weegar along with winger Jonathan Huberdeau to the Calgary Flames for power forward Matthew Tkachuk further depleted their blueline ranks.
Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli recently speculated the Panthers could be shopping around but only for temporary affordable stop-gaps that they could keep in their lineup when Ekblad returns. However, he pointed out that there aren't many options available right now.
Cap Friendly shows the Panthers with $5.275 million in cap space with Ekblad's $7.5-million cap hit going on LTIR. However, they'll have to become cap compliant once he's ready to return to the lineup later this season.
The Carolina Hurricanes are reportedly looking to shop Ethan Bear. The 25-year-old defenseman is healthy and keen to play but can't crack the Hurricanes' deep defense corps. He carries a $2.2-million salary for this season, but it would be a tight squeeze for the cap-strapped Panthers.
Seravalli reported several teams have expressed an interest in Pittsburgh Penguins rearguard Pierre-Olivier Joseph but didn't say if the Panthers were among them. Joseph, 23, carries an affordable $825,000 cap hit through 2023-24. However, Seravalli believes the Penguins are reluctant to move him.