UFA Tracker

Rumor Roundup: Who will be the next Florida Panthers player to move?

The Kris Versteeg trade stoked rumors about which Panthers could next to hit the trade block. And after being scratched twice, is Del Zotto officially done in New York with the Rangers?

It’s been a busy month for Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon. Only a week after he shook up his coaching staff, Tallon shipped unhappy winger Kris Versteeg to the Chicago Blackhawks for prospects Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen. The Panthers will absorb half of Versteeg’s $4.4-million annual cap hit over the remainder of his contract, which runs through 2015-16.

That move demonstrated Tallon’s seriousness when he suggested that players who didn’t respond to the coaching change wouldn’t be Panthers for long. Following the trade, he voiced his ongoing unhappiness over the team’s direction, vowing to remain aggressive to “help the franchise move forward.”

His players seemed to get the message. In the two games following the Versteeg deal, the Panthers narrowly lost to the Minnesota Wild and upset the Colorado Avalanche. Still, the move stoked rumors about which Panthers could next to hit the trade block.

CBC’s Elliotte Friedman speculated it could be Shawn Matthias, claiming the Vancouver Canucks could have some interest in the 25-year-old center. Matthias has an affordable contract ($1.75 million per season through 2014-15), plus his size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and two-way skills will interest clubs seeking depth at center.

Friedman also claimed defenseman Brian Campbell wasn’t going anywhere. That’s not surprising, for while teams would covet his offensive skills and experience, his $7.1-million cap hit through 2015-16 is a deal-breaker. Campbell’s also among the Panthers best players this season, so unless he demands a trade Tallon will keep him.

Forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Marcel Goc and Tomas Kopecky, along with defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, could also become trade bait if the Panthers fail to improve in the coming weeks.

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New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto was scratched from his club’s recent games against the Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings, which only fuelled the trade rumors dogging him of late.

Renaud Lavoie of Le Journal de Montreal recently cast doubt upon Del Zotto’s future with the Rangers, claiming he’s heard a trade “is a possibility.”

CBC’s Glenn Healy, however, noted the Rangers limited cap space ($1.4 million) and Del Zotto’s $2.6-million cap hit for this season makes moving him difficult at this point. He also doubts the Rangers can find a better defenseman if they attempt a dollar-for-dollar swap.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks believes the Rangers would seek a blueliner capable of playing over 19 minutes per game in return.

Teams currently seeking defensive depth prefer physical shutdown defenders over an offensive blueliner like Del Zotto. His market value should improve as the season progresses, but the Blueshirts won’t get a minute-munching defenseman in return.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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