In a late-afternoon trade, the Panthers sent defenseman Jason Demers to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for winger Jamie McGinn.
Demers, signed by the Panthers on the second day of free-agency in 2016, recorded 28 points in 81 games for the second-highest total of his career, but struggled defensively.
The 29-year old right-shot blue-liner played a key role on the Panthers’ second-ranked penalty kill and added a career-high 9 goals while spending most of the season in the top-4.
The motivation behind the trade, however, was the fact that Demers, widely described to be an ‘analytics signing,’ had four years left on a hefty 5-year, $22.5 million contract, and the next three carry with them a modified no-trade clause.
It didn’t take very long for him to get some use out of that clause.
Dale Tallon, reinstated as the Panthers’ general manager in April and not part of the contract negotiations with Demers last year, left the Quebec-native exposed at the expansion draft and later attempted to deal thim to the Vancouver Canucks.
The desired return? Erik Gudbranson.
Demers nixed the trade, but it was very clear that he remained on the chopping block, especially with the upward mobility of young, valued defensemen Mackenzie Weegar and Ian McCoshen appearing to be blocked by Demers’ long-term contract.
The Panthers will retain 12.5 percent of Demers’ cap hit for each of the next 4 seasons, which comes out to about $562,000 per year.
The two will now have an even better shot at cracking a Panthers defense that was primed to bring back all six of its regular defensemen from last year for another season.
Weegar, also a right-handed shot, is waiver-eligible and could be claimed by another team if the Panthers attempt to send him to the AHL, so that could have some bearing on which defenseman makes the final roster.
Jamie McGinn, who the Panthers got back in the trade, figures to fill one of the several holes in the bottom-6.
The 29-year old Ontario-native is a big body at 6’1″ and just over 200 pounds and also struggled last year with the young Coyotes posting just 17 points in 72 games.
He’s not a highly-skilled player by any means but fits the sandpaper mold favored by Tallon and new head coach Bob Boughner while providing a veteran presence in the locker room.
“Jamie brings size, skill and grit to our lineup and makes us a tougher team to play against,” said Tallon. “He’s played in over 500 NHL games and possesses a strong game on both sides of the puck. Jamie will be a welcome addition to our club as we move forward through training camp and into the season.”
McGinn recorded a career-high 39 points the year before as he split his season with Sabres and Ducks, earning him a 3-year deal in free-agency worth $10 million.
If he can somehow get back to that level, he may provide some value to the bottom half of the Panthers’ lineup.
Otherwise, it begs the questions whether or not they’re better off with younger, faster, and more skilled options like Jayce Hawryluk, Sebastian Repo, Jared McCann, and others vying for a roster spot.
The trade saves the Panthers less than $1 million over the next two years when considering McGinn’s cap hit and the percentage of Demers’ contract they retained.
The Panthers open the pre-season with a day-night doubleheader against the Predators in Nashville on Tuesday.