NHL trade deadline tracker: Panthers land former No. 4 overall pick, hang on to Driedger

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Deadline day is here and it’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting ever for the Florida Panthers.

The Panthers are in the thick of the Central Division race and a surprise Stanley Cup contender, on pace for the best season in their history and they have more than $11 million in cap space to work with as the 3 p.m. trade deadline approaches.

We’ll have live updates for you on Florida’s wheeling and dealing throughout the day:

4:00 p.m.: The Panthers have officially announced the Sam Bennett trade. They’re sending a 2022 second-round pick and prospect Emil Heineman to the Calgary Flames, in exchange for Bennett and a 2022 sixth-round pick.

“Sam is a skilled and versatile forward who plays the game with a great level of competitiveness, physicality and leadership,” general manager Bill Zito said in a statement. “He is a young player who possesses solid experience in the postseason and will be an exciting addition to our lineup.”

3:04 p.m.: The Panthers are also getting a sixth-round pick back in their trade with the Calgary Flames for versatile forward Sam Bennett, according to CapFriendly, so the full terms are:

  • Florida gets Bennett and the Flames’ sixth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

  • Calgary gets prospect Emil Heineman and the Panthers’ second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

2:51 p.m.: The Panthers have finally made a deadline-day trade to add some help up front.

Florida is sending a second-round pick to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Sam Bennett, The Sports Network reported. The versatile forward has 12 points for the Flames this year, and can play center and both wing spots.

Florida is also sending prospect Emil Heineman, a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, to the Flames in the trade.

Bennett has a $2.55-million cap hit and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

It’s another relatively low-risk, high-reward deal for general manager Bill Zito and the Panthers. Bennett was No. 4 pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and is still only 24. In the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, Bennett scored five goals in 10 games for Calgary.

2:19 p.m.: The Philadelphia Flyers have agreed to an extension with forward Scott Laughton, The Sports Network reported. Another forward is off the market.

The trade deadline is less than an hour away.

1:47 p.m.: The Los Angeles Kings have agreed to an extension with Alex Iafallo, NHL Network reported. The left wing is off a rapidly shrinking trade market.

With the trade deadline a little more than an hour away, the Panthers have more than $11 million in cap space to work with.

1:41 p.m.: Chris Driedger will start in net for the Panthers on Tuesday against the Dallas Stars, coach Joel Quenneville said, so it looks like Florida won’t move the goaltender ahead of the trade deadline.

Florida Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger (60) approaches the net after break in the game against the Nashville Predators at the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Saturday, March 20, 2021.
Florida Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger (60) approaches the net after break in the game against the Nashville Predators at the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

Florida is also getting some reinforcements Tuesday no matter what it does Monday. Winger Anthony Duclair should return from a shoulder injury Tuesday in Dallas.

As for the Panthers other new additions, winger Nikita Gusev and defenseman Brandon Montour should join Florida on Thursday when it faces the Tampa Bay Lightning.

1:20 p.m.: Another top forward is off the market.

The Chicago Blackhawks are sending forward Mattias Janmark and a fifth-round pick the Vegas Golden Knights, in exchange for a second- and third-round pick.

The market continues to shrink with less than two hours until the trade deadline.

12:30 p.m.: If the Panthers want to upgrade their defense more by the deadline, there are still options out there, even after the Tampa Bay Lightning traded for defenseman David Savard on Saturday. Here are some of the defensemen still out there and most likely to move:

  • Jamie Oleksiak, D, Dallas Stars: The Stars are outside the playoff picture after reaching the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals and Oleksiak is in the final year of his contract.

  • Nikita Zadorov, D, Chicago Blackhawks: Zadorov and the Blackhawks have discussed a contract extension, The Athletic reported. If the two parties can’t strike a deal, it makes sense for Chicago to move the defenseman.

11:30 a.m.: With left wing Taylor Hall heading to the Boston Bruins and winger Nick Foligno heading to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the days leading up to the trade deadline, the Panthers’ potential options are starting to dwindle. They’re not entirely out of options, though. Here are some of the forwards still out there and most likely to move:

  • Mattias Janmark, C/LW, Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks scratched Janmark on Friday to keep him healthy ahead of the deadline. He has 10 goals this yearafter helping the Dallas Stars reach the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals last season.

  • Mike Hoffman, LW/RW, St. Louis Blues: Hoffman led Florida in goals last season, then signed a one-year deal with the Blues in the offseason. St. Louis is currently clinging to fourth place in its division.

  • Alex Iafallo, LW, Los Angeles Kings: Until the Kings officially agree to an extension with Iafallo, the center technically remains on the market.

  • Scott Laughton, C/LW, Philadelphia Flyers: A former first-round pick, Laughton is in the final year of his contract and drawing interest from contenders, The Athletic reported.

10:30 a.m.: Another top forward target could be off the market.

The Los Angeles Kings are progressing to an extension with Alex Iafallo, The Sports Network reported, which would take the left wing off the trade market.

The Panthers could still use help at center behind star forward Aleksander Barkov, but they have the positional flexibility to justify adding any sort of forward to aid their struggling power play.

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

9:45 a.m.: Early Monday, the biggest domino of the trade deadline fell when the Boston Bruins landed Taylor Hall in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres.

While there was no indication they were interested in the left wing, the Panthers spent the last week trying to upgrade and have as much cap space as anyone. Hall’s $8-million cap hit easily would’ve fit and now Florida has the space to add anyone on the market.

The top targets have mostly gone off the market in the last few days, though, as the Tampa Bay Lightning landed defenseman David Savard in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour (62) skates with the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, April 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour (62) skates with the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, April 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

9 a.m.: The stage is set for the Panthers after making three trades earlier this month in anticipation of Monday.

First, they dealt center Vinnie Hinostroza to the Chicago Blackhawks to clear up a minuscule amount of cap room. They followed up with a bigger, five-player trade with the Blackhawks on Thursday, mostly to get off of winger Brett Connolly’s $3.5-million cap hit. On Saturday, Florida started adding, bolstering its defense by trading for Brandon Montour from the Buffalo Sabres, then they signed winger Nikita Gusev to a one-year deal after the New Jersey Devils waived the 2018 most valuable player of Russia’s Kontintal Hockey League on Friday.

If Montour was all the Panthers were targeting, they wouldn’t have had to make the Connolly deal, though. The defenseman is making $3.85 million and would’ve fit into Florida’s existing cap space. The Connolly gave the Panthers room to add Montour and then some, and an ongoing three-game losing streak is exposing some of Florida’s flaws — issues Montour alone won’t help fix.

The Panthers offense is flailing with only three goals in their last three games. Their power play is 2 of 24 since defenseman Aaron Ekblad went down with a likely season-ending leg fracture last month. Florida has lost 5 of 6 to the Carolina Hurricanes — including two during this current skid — and might run into them in the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs next month.

If the Panthers still want more defensive help, there are still options out there, including Dallas Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson. The flashier names, however, are the forwards, although the Boston Bruins traded for Sabres left wing Taylor Hall early Monday. Steady backup goaltender Chris Driedger could also be one of the most valuable trade chips any contender has, given Sergei Bobrovsky’s contract and the recent addition of fellow goaltender Spencer Knight.

All options are on the table given Florida’s cap situation and the historic season the Panthers are putting together in South Florida.