The Panthers traded defenseman Erik Gudbranson, their top draft pick six years ago and considered a possible future captain of the team, to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.
Florida got back talented forward Jared McCann, himself a past first-round pick, as well as two draft picks from the Canucks. The Panthers now hold the 23rd overall pick in the upcoming draft as well as the 33rd, which had belonged to Vancouver.
Although Gudbranson, 24, had his best season with the Panthers in 2015-16, Florida decided it needed to increase its scoring and skill and hope the 19-year-old McCann helps out.
Although a natural center, McCann can play wing and will probably have to in Sunrise what with Florida’s logjam (Sasha Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Vincent Trocheck and Derek MacKenzie) at the position.
McCann scored nine goals with nine assists as a rookie with the Canucks last season. McCann turns 20 on Tuesday.
“He continues to add to the group of forwards that we have,” new general manager Tom Rowe said. “We wanted to get more depth on the forward lines. The fact we added two draft picks … we got two picks back that we lost at the trade deadline.”
Gudbranson, who was the first draft pick made by Dale Tallon in 2010, is vacationing in Africa after signing a one-year contract with Florida a few weeks ago.
A restricted free agent, Gudbranson will make $3.5 million this coming season, with the Panthers saying they were open to a long-term deal with the shutdown defenseman after the new year.
Gudbranson would likely make $5 million per season in his new deal, and McCann has two more years under his initial entry level contract that now belongs to the Panthers.
Florida’s defensive depth also played a factor in the deal. Rookie Michael Matheson was strong in the playoffs and for Team Canada at the World Championships and the Panthers might get top prospect Ian McCoshen to leave Boston College in the coming weeks.
“The way Michael Matheson played,” Rowe said, “really gave us more of a comfort level to do this. … We felt we had a little room to do this. But this was a very difficult decision. This wasn’t a quick decision. We talked about it internally for quite a while.”