Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers expect to be active as trade deadline approaches

Sean Bergenheim asked the Panthers for a trade earlier this month after he was benched for consecutive games.
Sean Bergenheim asked the Panthers for a trade earlier this month after he was benched for consecutive games. AP

With the NHL’s trade deadline just a few weeks away, Florida general manager Dale Tallon says he expects to be “fairly busy,” although don’t expect any blockbuster deals.

The Panthers have been mentioned as a possible trade partner with the rebuilding Maple Leafs for star forward Phil Kessel; Toronto’s asking price apparently includes one of Florida’s top young centers in Nick Bjugstad or Aleksander Barkov.

That is a price seemingly too steep for Tallon and the Panthers.

“We’re not going to do anything silly and jepordize our future,” Tallon told reporters in Toronto on Tuesday.

“It would have to make sense for us both short and long term. We’re not going to Band-aid this. I’m confident in the young guys we have, the guys in our room, that we’re going to stay in the hunt. We’ll see what happens.”

With five games before the deadline, the Panthers are expected to be both buyers — and sellers.

There’s no secret Tallon has been shopping his pending free agents since the start of the year and teams have been scouting the likes of Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky, Scottie Upshall and Sean Bergenheim all season.

Tallon isn’t expected to trade all four, although Bergenheim is as good as gone.

Earlier this month, Bergenheim asked the team to be traded after being benched for consecutive games. The situation has only gotten worse, with coach Gerard Gallant making a comment questioning Bergenheim’s effort level last week in Dallas. That led Bergenheim to start referring to the Panthers in the past tense.

When asked by reporters in Toronto about Bergenheim’s situation, Tallon reiterated that players who don’t want to be part of the organization won’t be.

In 2010, Tallon traded Nathan Horton to Boston after Horton said he would be OK with playing somewhere else.

“There’s been some interest, we’ll see what happens,” Tallon said. “I’ve said since Day 1, if you don’t want to be a Panther, we’ll accommodate you.”

Bergenheim has now been a healthy scratch in six of the past eight games and hasn’t played in the past three.

Gallant has said he hasn’t been told not to play Bergenheim while Tallon works on finding him a new place to call home.

“It doesn’t affect anything,” Gallant said Monday. “If he can help us win, he’ll be in the lineup. We happen to have an extra forward and he’s been out. If I think he’s one of our 12 best forwards, he’ll be in. He’s still a hockey player on our team.”

The Panthers don’t have many needs, although they sure would love to find a winger who can score. Kessel obviously fits that bill, but he probably won’t be shipped out of Toronto until the offseason.

Florida is pretty set on defense and strong in goal. The Panthers also have a handful of young forwards in the minors ready to jump in whenever Tallon swings a deal for Bergenheim and whomever else he decides to move.

Fleischmann, Florida’s leading scorer in his first two seasons, has definitely picked up his play in the past few weeks and has five points in the past eight games. It’s believed Fleischmann isn’t being as actively shopped as he was earlier in the season.

▪ Bjugstad scored his 21st goal of the season and third in the past week in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Leafs. His goal, which gave the Panthers the lead for good, came on Florida’s second power play. Florida went 2-for-5 with the advantage (Jussi Jokinen scored on the first).

The Panthers had gone three games without a power play goal then scored on their first two opportunities Tuesday.

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