Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers lose but make three deals within an hour as Jiri Hudler, Teddy Purcell and Jakub Kindl acquired

The Panthers’ trade day party came a few days early.

With the NHL’s trade deadline set for Monday at 3, general manager Dale Tallon got things going during Saturday’s 3 o’clock hour by making three trades which came to light during the first period of what ended up becoming a 4-3 shootout loss to the host Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Panthers acquired veteran forwards Jiri Hudler (Calgary) and Teddy Purcell (Edmonton) for a handful of draft picks and also added shutdown defenseman Jakob Kindl from Detroit.

“We wanted a good puck-moving defenseman and felt we wanted three really good scoring lines,’’ Tallon said from South Florida not long after Florida’s loss to the Blue Jackets.

“We have three wonderful scoring lines and a fourth which is invigorated and able to play a very aggressive forechecking style. We have depth at all positions and this gives our coaches an opportunity for different looks.’’

Hudler and Purcell are expected to play alongside center Nick Bjugstad on Florida’s third line; Kindl could jump in on Florida’s third-defensive pairing.

“Those are players who I think will contribute down the road for us,’’ Bjugstad said. “We’ve never really made a push like this. These are players we all know. ... We’re definitely excited to have them.’’

The Panthers have been in first place in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division since Jan. 2, yet their hold has become precarious as Tampa Bay, Detroit and Boston close in.

Tallon said he was given the green light from owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu to be aggressive on the trade front with the deals heating up Saturday morning.

The Purcell trade, which was leaked Saturday afternoon, didn’t become official until Florida’s game had concluded.

“I had carte blanche to get it done and that makes it much easier and enjoyable to have this opportunity,’’ Tallon said. “It makes it easier to get deals done when you have support of ownership.’’

Aside from Kindl, Florida adds more postseason experience with Hudler and Purcell.

Hudler, 32, has played in 77 postseason games -- which is more than the Florida franchise has participated in -- and won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.

For Hudler, he knew he was about to be traded for the first time as an unrestricted free agent and heard the news after taking part in Calgary’s morning skate before its game against visiting Ottawa.

Hudler says he is excited to join a contending team and be teammates with “living legend” Jaromir Jagr.

“I’m very excited to go to a young team like this especially the way they play,’’ said Hudler, who scored a career-high 31 goals to lead Calgary to the playoffs last season and has 10 this year.

“This is very exciting for me.”

Purcell, 29, also has playoff experience, scoring six goals with 11 assists in 18 games with Tampa Bay in 2011. In 22 postseason games with the Lightning, Purcell has seven goals and 18 points.

Both Purcell and Hudler are unrestricted free agents after this season. Kindl is signed through next year.

“They won 12 games in a row and I think that opened up some eyes,’’ said Purcell, who was held out of Edmonton’s past two games as trade rumors swirled.

“[The Panthers] are a fun team to watch and I’ve heard good things about their coach. This should be an exciting stretch for me.”

Both players will join the team in Winnipeg and are expected to make their Florida debut against the Jets on Tuesday night.

The duo need to get immigration issues worked out with Tallon saying the team hopes to get their U.S. visas expedited while in Canada so they can travel to Denver and play Colorado on Thursday.

Kindl already played for a U.S.-based team so he is eligible immediately but won’t play Sunday in Minnesota.

“We’ll work hard on it starting Monday morning,’’ Tallon said, “so they can get in the lineup sooner than later.’’

Lost in the mix of Saturday’s trade frenzy was Florida signing highly-regarded Canadian junior free agent forward Dryden Hunt which made the loss of a second-round pick for Hudler less painful.

Hunt, 20, went undrafted yet leads Canada’s Western Hockey League in goals (49) and is eligible to join the Panthers in some capacity once his junior season is complete.

“We’re really deep, have a lot of prospects through the whole organization,’’ Tallon said. “We have a lot of good players all over the world. When you’re a buyer, you have to pay a price. We didn’t effect our team at all.’’

▪ Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 3 (SO): Florida gave up a two-goal lead as the host Blue Jackets scored three unanswered goals before Logan Shaw tied things at 3 late in the third period.

In the shootout, Florida went 0 for 3 against rookie goalie Joonas Korpisalo as Brandon Dubinsky scored on Roberto Luongo in the third round.

“We needed to score goals and that didn’t happen,” Jaromir Jagr said. “[Columbus] is a desperate hockey club and they had nothing to lose. That’s the way they play in the past 20 minutes.”

The shootout loss did give Florida a point in the standings as they embark on a march to the postseason with 21 games remaining.

Florida goes into Sunday’s matinee against the host Minnesota Wild still atop the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division as it has held first place since Jan. 2.

“I thought we were real good in the first half of the game, dominated the play,’’ said coach Gerard Gallant, whose team held a 15-1 shot advantage early in the second period.

“Then we were a little sleepy, didn’t look like we had much jump. We would have liked to get the two points, but we’ll take the one.’’

The Panthers trailed 3-2 in the third when Brandon Saad scored 7:21 into the period not long after Seth Jones tied it with a deflected shot that fluttered past Roberto Luongo.

Florida tied the score to force overtime with 5:42 remaining as Logan Shaw crashed the net and got in front of teammate Reilly Smith to get a piece of a Nick Bjugstad rebound and push it through.

The Panthers and Jackets fought the rest of regulation with Florida going down a skater when Dmitry Kulikov was flagged for delay of game with 31 seconds left.

Florida survived the 4-on-3 disadvantage in overtime -- Cam Atkinson’s high-stick goal was waved off -- and went to the shootout.

The Panthers, who once won six of seven shootouts, have now dropped their past two to San Jose and the Blue Jackets. Luongo stopped the first two offerings but Dubinsky scored in the third round. Florida’s Vincent Trocheck -- who scored to make it 2-0 in the second -- was stopped on Florida’s third round shot and that was it.

▪ Al Montoya, who has given up two goals or fewer in 12 of his 15 starts this season, will be in net Sunday against the host Wild.

▪ Quinton Howden has missed the past five games with what is believed to be concussion symptoms, took part in the pregame skate and could be in the lineup Sunday.

Columbus has won eight of its past 13 games.

Sunday: Panthers at Wild

When, where: 3 p.m.; Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota

TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640

Series: Minnesota leads 12-5-1

Scouting report: The Panthers have a point in each of their past five games (3-0-2) and won the lone meeting against the Wild last month. Minnesota hasn't won at Xcel Center in 2016, losing its past nine dating to Dec. 28.

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