The Florida Panthers got some terrible news on Monday as All-Star defenceman Aaron Ekblad was announced as done for the season with after suffering a left leg fracture Sunday night against the Dallas Stars, reports TSN’s Frank Seravalli. Ekblad got tangled up with Stars defenceman Esa Lindell midway through the second period and went down to the ice awkwardly. He needed help off the ice and it was pretty clear from the way he left that his season was likely done.
The injury takes the top blueliner out of the Panthers rotation. Will they hit the trade market in an attempt to try and replace his production?
Ekblad’s injury was not pretty and this is such a significant loss, the Panthers will likely have to do something as a team still battling in the Discover Central Division. They are likely a playoff team, but without Ekblad, He played over 25 minutes per game, he’s got 22 points in 35 games and he’s the go-to guy on that blue line, without question.
So now what?
In the short term, the Panthers can recall defenseman Anton Stralman from the taxi squad. He’s a right-hand shot like Ekblad, and has scored nine points (three goals, six assists) in 29 games this season. What about in the long-term?
Ekblad’s $7.5 million salary can be moved to LTIR and as such, that gives the Panthers a lot of room to add a rental at this year’s NHL Trade Deadline. The biggest names on the market are Mattias Eklhom, David Savard, Alex Goligoski and Brandon Montour or Colin Miller out of Buffalo. Ekholm and Goligoski are both lefties and if the Panthers are specifically looking for a right-shot-defenseman.
There certainly isn’t a right d-man on the trade market that can fill in the minutes and offer the production Ekblad had been, but the Panthers might have to try and do something. I would expect them to make a big play for Savard if he becomes available.