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Florida Panthers trade Keaton Ellerby to Kings for 5th-round pick

The Panthers have had a number of their top draft picks coming up through the system during the past few weeks. On Friday, Florida gave one of its former first-round picks away.

Defenseman Keaton Ellerby, the 10th overall selection in 2007, was traded to the Los Angeles Kings early Friday in exchange for a fifth-round selection in the upcoming draft.

Ellerby left the Panthers team hotel in Washington early Friday morning to join his new team in Detroit. Ellerby could make his debut with the defending Stanley Cup champions against the Red Wings in a nationally televised game Sunday.

A healthy scratch Thursday in Philadelphia, Ellerby ended up playing in 125 games over four seasons with the Panthers. Ellerby scored two goals with 15 assists.

“Defensemen take time to develop, and sometimes a change of scenery helps someone,” coach Kevin Dineen said after Friday’s afternoon workout in northern Virginia.

“When someone leaves your organization, you always wish them well. He was a good-serving Panther, and we hope he takes the full-time step he couldn’t make here. Last year, we couldn’t find a full-time place for him. He’s still a young guy. He has a lot of hockey left in him.’’

Assistant general manager Mike Santos said Friday that Ellerby was a casualty of a numbers crunch. The Panthers will have seven defensemen back once Ed Jovanovski returns from a knee injury, and Ellerby had found playing time in Florida scarce over the past few seasons.

“We’re getting healthier and had to make some sort of roster move and expose a player to waivers,” Santos said. “At some point we will have too many bodies. This was a player another team had interest in, so we felt we had to make a move.”

Santos said the Panthers will go into Saturday’s game against the Capitals with the six defensemen they played with Thursday in Philadelphia.

Washington, which has won just twice all season, won all three home meetings between the two teams last year as Florida edged the Capitals by two points for the Southeast Division title.

The Panthers have lost eight of the past nine games held at Verizon Center.

“We’re not trying to stoke the fire because we didn’t have any success in here last year,” Dineen said. “That stings a little bit.”

On Thursday, Jose Theodore stopped both of Philadelphia’s shots, and teammates Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller scored. There was no need for a third shot because Florida had an insurmountable 2-0 lead.

Huberdeau’s backhand-to-forehand move during his shootout was slick enough to earn No. 6 on ESPN’s top 10 plays of the night.

“I’ve been working on those moves with those guys quite a bit out there,” Dineen joked after the game.

“Weiss is a really important piece of our puzzle,” Dineen said, “and I had him out there quite a bit in those penalty kills in the end, and he scores a big goal for us to tie things up for us. It’s the little things, the faceoffs, the little board battles, when you’re trying to kill a penalty at the end of the game, that’s what makes him a special player.”

Skille scored Florida’s initial goal Thursday, so Dineen definitely has a decision to make for Saturday’s game.

“That’s a good thing for a coach,” Dineen said. “Sometimes we’re looking for energy, sometimes we’re looking for skill. Alex can bring both.”

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