The latest on the Florida Panthers, Blackhawks prospect Brandon Pirri and the top defense trade targets.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Harvey Fialkov reports Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon isn’t giving up on the season but is challenging several underachieving players to step up their play. Though Tallon didn’t single out anyone, Fialkov believes he’s referring to Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias. All are signed through next season and would be difficult to move. “We’re not going to blow this team up,” Tallon said. “We got some great pieces and we got some pieces we have to change and make better as we move forward to March 5, the draft and free agency” Tallon also said he’s talked with Tim Thomas regarding his future. “We spoke in the last week and he wants to be here,” Tallon said. “The feeling is mutual. I like his competitiveness and his overall performance, very good, so we’ll see.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Tallon will make a couple of moves by the trade deadline if he can land a return which his club can build on for the future. It doesn’t sound as though Thomas will be among them.
ESPN.COM: Tim Kavanagh lists Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, the Islanders Andrew MacDonald, Buffalo’s Christian Ehrhoff, Dallas’ Trevor Daley and Toronto’s Jake Gardiner as the top trade targets among defensemen heading toward the NHL trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byfuglien’s $5.4 million per season salary and his weak defensive play means he probably won’t be moved until this summer, when teams have the cap space to take a chance on him as either a defenseman or a winger. Ditto Ehrhoff, for while the bulk of his 10-year, $40 million contract has already been paid out, his $4 million annual cap hit to 2021 could be tough to move at the deadline. MacDonald and Daley are the more likely trade candidates. Gardiner was dogged by trade rumors earlier this season but I don’t believe the Leafs intend to move him. GM Dave Nonis wants a player comparable in skill and age in return.
ESPN CHICAGO.COM: Scott Powers reports Blackhawks prospect Brandon Pirri is uncertain about his future with the club. With the ‘Hawks recent acquisition of Peter Regin, there’s rumors they are shopping Pirri.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s possible but I don’t think there’s a pressing need for the Blackhawks to move Pirri, who’s only 22 and in the final season of his entry-level contract.