There was plenty of chatter in the press box Thursday during Florida’s win over Arizona, and Friday night was full of tweets discussing trade possibilities as the last full weekend before the trade deadline was about to get underway.
Then Saturday arrived. By the time the Panthers had dropped a disappointing 4-3 shootout loss in Columbus, the club had three new acquisitions — forwards Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell plus defenseman Jakub Kindl.
GM Dale Tallon gave up a second-round pick this year and a fourth-round pick in 2018 to Calgary to acquire the versatile Hudler. He gave up a third-round pick this year for Purcell. Florida traded a sixth-round pick in 2017 and took some cash back in getting Kindl, a 29-year-old former first-round pick (No. 19 overall) in 2005.
Hudler, a 31-goal scorer last season and possessing valuable playoff experience, said he had watched Florida a few times on TV and said it looked like they had fun playing together.
“I didn’t know where I would end up. I’m really excited and really happy to go to a young team like that and especially the way the play, and they’re in first place. It’s really exciting for me,” said the 32-year-old Hudler, who has 10 goals and 25 assists in 53 games for Calgary this season.
As for playing with fellow Czech Republic native Jaromir Jagr, Hudler laughed and said, “You’re lucky to have him near you. You call him old guy, but I think he’s younger than anybody else on that team. I know Jags for a long time. Obviously, growing up he was one of my favorite players. He’s a living legend. I played with him a couple of times on the national team. He’s having a great season.
“The team, when I watch some games, they look great. They have fun playing hockey and they play hard. They’ve got a good group going on there.”
As a member of the Lightning from 2009 to 2014, Purcell was a gnat to the Panthers. The right winger won’t get to wear No. 16 with the Panthers, but he said the Cats have a good puzzle and that his goal is to come in and be a nice piece of it.
“Being out west, I didn’t get to see them a whole lot,” said Purcell, a 30-year-old Newfoundland native who will slot in at right wing for Florida. “I think they caught everyone’s attention when they went on that run. That was obviously eye-opening around the league, and people were following that very close. They can burn you with their chances and they’re pretty tight defensively, and they have a pretty solid goalie back there.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things. They’re a fun team to watch, and I’ve heard good things about the coach, too. It’s going to be a pretty exciting stretch for me heading down there.”
And the prospect of possibly facing his old Tampa teammates in the Stanley Cup playoffs?
“That would be a lot of a fun. I still have a lot of good friends on that team. I’d like to get to hate them for a couple of weeks and get to play them in the Sunshine State. That would be great,” Purcell said.
Tallon traded for Jerred Smithson and Wojtek Wolski in 2012, both key players down the stretch as the Panthers won the Southeast Division but lost to the Devils in the quarterfinals. Adding Saturday’s three pieces is a giant step up in quality from the trades four years ago.
“We needed a presence on the blue line and felt we needed three good scoring lines. Now it gives us three wonderful scoring lines and a fourth line that will be invigorated,” said Tallon, who reiterated on two occasions that ownership gave him the go-ahead to get the deals done at whatever cost.
“Overall, we thought we needed to add more depth on all our forward lines to give us more options. These guys are really good hockey players who’ve had success everywhere they’ve been. We’re very fortunate to get these deals done.
“I’m pretty satisfied with the depth of our team now. We needed some scoring and playmaking ability on the wings. I think we achieved that today. We got a good playmaker, passer and point man on the power play in Kindl. Right now we’ve got good positional depth.”
Tallon said it would take a pretty big deal to add more in the next two days but said he was pleased with how the trades played out.
“I was hoping (the trades) wouldn’t affect our roster,” said Tallon, who said he “dipped his toe in the water on Ladd” possibility.
“The goal always for us is not to give up a first-rounder or top prospects, and we achieved that.”
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