For the Florida Panthers, there are just a few more shopping days left.
The Panthers enter this weekend having won six of seven games, including two in a row on the road, 7-5 over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday and 4-3 against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.
Those wins have propelled the Panthers into the fringes of playoff contention, especially considering the fact that they have played three games less than the Carolina Hurricanes, the team to beat at the moment for the final postseason berth. Simply put, the Panthers have more chances to win games than some of their key rivals.
That brings us to the trade deadline, which arrives Feb. 26 — one week from Monday. Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has smartly said he won’t trade away players he considers future stars for some short-term trade-deadline fix.
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Look for the Panthers to protect the best of those prospects, such as center Henrik Borgstrom and wingers Owen Tippett and Adam Mascherin.
The Panthers already have one of the top young-center combos in the league in Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck.
But there appears to be a need to acquire a proven veteran winger who can score, either before the deadline or this summer in free agency.
The Panthers’ star winger is Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgenii Dadonov is solid, and young Denis Malgin is emerging. Then there’s the case of Nick Bjugstad, who came up as a center but is now a winger.
As the Panthers assess their group of forwards, they have no doubt noticed one area where they have a surplus, which is in goal.
After all, the Panthers’ current hot streak started when their top two goalies, Roberto Luongo and James Reimer, were injured. Harri Sateri, a 28-year-old rookie who had never won an NHL game before this calendar year, shockingly won four straight.
Sateri was sent back to the minors on Wednesday as Reimer and Luongo have returned from injured reserve. However, the quality Sateri showed has given the Panthers depth at a crucial position.
Tallon could, in theory at least, trade Sateri or even Reimer to get that veteran scorer. Tallon could, in theory, use other assets to make a trade that helps not just this year but also going forward.
Star defensemen are reportedly available on the trade market, but the Panthers aren’t likely to make a splash at the position.
So, forget about the Senators’ two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, the Penguins’ three-time Stanley Cup champ Kris Letang, Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh or Red Wings power-play quarterback Mike Green.
They are not fits for the Panthers, who might choose to stand pat at all positions at the deadline.
Even so, here’s a list of players around the league who are reportedly available in trades and an analysis of which moves might best fit the Panthers:
▪ Rangers winger Michael Grabner, 30, has the speed that would fit the Panthers. He scored 27 goals last season and had 23 entering this weekend. He has a $1.7 million cap hit on an expiring contract. Grabner could make sense this summer as a free agent.
▪ Oilers winger Patrick Maroon, 29, operates with brute strength as a power forward who can score, including 27 goals last season. His salary-cap hit of just $1.5 million makes his acquisition appealing.
▪ Red Wings speedy center Andreas Athanasiou, 23, scored 18 goals in 64 games last season. He has a $1.4 million cap hit but won’t be traded on the cheap.
▪ Senators winger/center Mike Hoffman, 28, is a proven goal scorer. He has a $5.2 million cap hit through the 2019-2020 season. In the past three full seasons, he has scored 27, 29 and 26 goals. He entered this weekend with 15 goals.
▪ Oilers center Mark Letestu, 33, can win face-offs and is useful on the power play and penalty killing. His cap hit is just $1.8 million, and he has averaged 17 goals the past two years.
▪ Rangers winger Rick Nash, whose contract is expiring, could make sense as a free-agent acquisition this summer. Nash, 33, is no longer the elite scorer he once was – he scored 42 goals in 2014-2015 and just 38 the past two years -- but he plays a complete game.
▪ Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, 25, has 45 goals the past two years and has a $3.1 million cap hit for two seasons beyond this one. He’s also a significant presence on the PK.
▪ Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk, 28, will be unrestricted free agent this summer. The second overall pick in the 2007 draft, he won’t come cheap. He scored 29 goals last season and has 23 entering this weekend. The Leafs could deal him before the deadline for a right-handed defenseman.
▪ Senators center Derrick Brassard, 30, has a $5-million cap hit through the 2018-2019 season. He posted a career-high 27 goals with the Rangers in 2015-2016 but scored just 14 times last season.
▪ Wings center Tomas Tatar, 27, has averaged 24 goals over the past four seasons. He has a $5.3 million cap hit and is under contract for three years beyond this season.
▪ Wings winger Gustav Nyquist, 28, has a $4.8 million cap hit and has averaged 21 goals the past four seasons. But he will be a free agent in the summer of 2019.
▪ Sabres center Sam Reinhart, 22, may need a trade to ignite his career. The second overall pick in the 2014 draft, Reinhart has yet to post 50 points in a season. He entered this weekend with 13 goals and 16 assists.
▪ Sabres winger Evander Kane will be a restricted free agent this summer, and Buffalo is reportedly asking for a first-round pick, a prospect, a roster player and a conditional pick just to rent his services for the next couple of months. Kane, 26, is on pace for a career-best 70-point season.
▪ The Islanders say they are not trading superstar center John Tavares, 27, whose contract expires after this season. It will take huge dollars to re-sign him, but the Islanders will make the effort.
▪ Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty, 29, has a $4.5 million cap hit and his contract doesn’t expire until after the 2018-2019 season. But the price tag figures to be too rich for a player who has scored 30 or more goals in each of his past four seasons.
TAKE A PASS
▪ Canucks winger Thomas Vanek, 34, has been traded before the deadline twice in the past four years, and he had a brief run with the Panthers last year, posting two goals and 10 points in 20 games. Vanek is a solid scorer — 17 goals last season and 16 already this season — and he can be acquired on the cheap. But he’s not strong defensively and is on the wrong side of 30.
▪ Sabres winger Benoit Pouliot was the fourth overall pick in 2005 but has never lived up to that status. Pouliot, 31, has never had a 40-point season despite having impressive size and speed. He kills penalties and draws penalties. He fits best as a bottom-six winger, and the Panthers have enough of those type players.
▪ Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec, 35, has a $6 million cap hit and just five goals in 56 games this season — pass!
The Recruiting Column is a year-round feature of the Miami Herald. If you have a tip or story idea regarding recruiting or an impending college commitment, please contact Walter Villa at: email@example.com