Over the past week, the Florida Panthers have gone all in, acquiring arguably the biggest forward available on the market in Flyers star Claude Giroux, a significant defense option in Ben Chiarot from Montreal, and a depth defense option in Robert Hagg from the Buffalo Sabres. These moves on defense are an attempt to reduce the loss of superstar Aaron Ekblad for the remainder of the regular season. However, Ekblad is expected to be back before the Panthers start playoff hockey in May.
Earlier this weekend, the Florida Panthers acquired Claude Giroux, Connor Bunnaman former first-round pick German Rubtsov, and a fifth-round pick in 2024 in exchange for Owen Tippett, a conditional top-ten pick in 2024 that may be moved to 2025, as well as a third-round pick in the 2023 NHL draft. Claude Giroux is the most significant add the Panthers made this deadline season, as the thirty-four-year-old is having another solid year. This trade was heavily influenced by Giroux’s no-movement clause, as the forward reportedly turned down trades to the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche. This season, in fifty-seven games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Giroux scored eighteen goals with twenty-four assists for forty-two points, one shy of his point total from last season (sixteen goals and twenty-seven assists for forty-three points) in three more games. Giroux has always been a very high AB player as well, as his career AB score is a +4.03 over a thirteen-year span, including four straight individually positive seasons. Despite the abysmal season for the Philadelphia Flyers, Claude Giroux recorded a relatively solid midseason AB score of -2.36. The team as a whole, however, is near the bottom of the league with a -92.38 team score which goes to show how impressive this score really is for the former captain. Giroux celebrated his 1,000th game with the club last week, which is another huge accolade for the potential future Hall-of-Famer. The missing piece though is obviously the illustrious Stanley Cup, which Giroux and the Panthers will look to capture during this playoff run beginning in early May. In return, the Flyers will receive Owen Tippett, who was a former top-ten pick in 2017. Tippett has struggled thus far in his NHL career to produce offensively, as his career-high is eighteen points. That number will likely be passed this season, as Tippet has scored six goals with eight assists for fourteen points in forty-two games with the Panthers. He should get a bigger opportunity in Philadelphia, as Flyers brass felt it was extremely important that he be a part of this trade. Philadelphia still has more work to do to accumulate draft picks for their rebuild, as they still do not own a second-round pick in either the 2022 or 2023 draft due to the Shayne Gostisbehere and Rasmus Ristolainen trades.
In addition to Giroux, the Panthers acquired one of the most coveted defensemen on the market in Ben Chiarot, in exchange for prospect Ty Smilanic, their first-round pick in the 2023 NHL draft, and a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL draft. As we wrote in our Montreal Canadiens trade deadline preview article, , Ben Chiarot has been a consistently poor AB player throughout his entire career. Chiarot is coming off three-straight negative individual AB seasons, including a whopping -13.04 individual score last season. He has only recorded two positive seasons in the seven seasons of data we have on him, as one was during his rookie year in 2014-15 (+0.54). His current career AB is -3.60, which could dip to as low as -5.53 if his midseason projection of -19.03 holds. That -19.03 score is the second-lowest score registered by a Canadiens player this season, barely ahead of only fellow defenseman Chris Wideman’s -19.12. In forty-eight games this season, Ben Chiarot has scored five goals with seven assists for twelve points. At thirty years of age, Chiarot currently makes $3.5 million and becomes an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season. We believe Kent Hughes did excellent work with this trade, as Ty Smilanic looks like a promising prospect as well as the solid pick return. The former 3rd round pick of the Panthers has scored thirteen goals with nine assists for twenty-two points in thirty-nine games with Quinnipiac University this season. Due to the Ekblad injury, DailyFaceoff projects Chiarot to play on Florida’s top-pair with Mackenzie Weegar which will certainly be interesting to watch.
The last significant acquisition the Panthers made was the addition of Robert Hagg from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a sixth-round pick. Hagg was acquired by the Sabres in the Rasmus Ristolainen trade to the Philadelphia Flyers involving a first and second-round pick. In forty-eight games for the Buffalo Sabres this season, Hagg scored one goal and registered seven assists for eight points. Eight points is actually Hagg’s best point total since 2019-20 when he had thirteen (three goals plus ten assists). At the midseason point, Hagg’s -8.17 individual score is the third-lowest of any Sabres player, ahead of only Peyton Krebs (-8.31) and Rasmus Dahlin (-10.97). The Sabres as a team registered a -98.02 team AB score at the midseason point, which is actually a thirty-six AB point improvement from the 2020-21 season. Dailyfaceoff projects Hagg to play on Florida’s third defense pair with Brandon Montour.
The Panthers currently sit atop the Atlantic Division with ninety points in sixty-two games (42-14-6 record). They are 7-2-1 in their last ten games, and with the addition of these significant pieces, expect Florida to be ready to compete for their first playoff series win since 1996 when the team advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the Atlantic Division contenders respond to Florida’s decisions, as we’ve seen several already (Giordano/Blackwell to Toronto, Hagel/Paul to TBL, Lindholm to BOS). Much more to come, as we keep inching closer to the 2022 trade deadline.