The Montreal Canadiens are paying close attention to the wave of changes in the Florida Panthers organizations, as they currently own their 2023 1st round pick.
With the Florida Panthers seemingly having moved on from Jack Adams-nominee, Andrew Brunette, it looks like general manager Bill Zito is looking to make some impactful changes to his club. The Panthers are reportedly in the process of offering former Winnipeg Jet’s bench boss, Paul Maurice, the role of head coach for the upcoming season, thereby completing the near-total revamping of Florida’s coaching staff. The Panthers had previously fired assistant coaches Ulf Samuelsson and Derek MacKenzie a few weeks ago, with only Tuomo Ruutu remaining on the Panthers coaching staff.
NHL sources have indicated to Montreal Hockey Now that the Panthers will not stop their tinkering at the coaching level, as it would appear that some bigger names are currently out there in NHL trade talks to help the Panthers take a step up next season. The Panthers are firmly in win-now mode, and with big-time players needing new contracts over the next two years, they will likely be as aggressive this summer as they were at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.
How can this impact the Montreal Canadiens?
Five days before the March 21 NHL Trade Deadline, the Montreal Canadiens traded defenceman Ben Chiarot to the Panthers in exchange for forward Tyler Smilanic, a first-round pick in 2023 and a fourth-round pick in 2022 previously acquired from the New York Rangers. Not only did the Canadiens acquire a first round pick in what NHL draft experts have predicted to be a very deep draft, but that 2023 pick is unprotected. The risk of the Panthers regressing at this junction due to all the changes being made to the roster has to be recognized.
Sure, the Panthers could perhaps have an outcome akin to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who, after getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the NHL Playoffs in 2019, made some tweaks and went on to win back-to-back Stanley Cups. However, Tampa Bay made only minor tweaks to their roster, while keeping their core and their coaching staff. With a revamped coaching staff and the potential for some big moves this summer, the Florida Panthers repeating as President’s Trophy and Atlantic Division winners is not as much a shoo-in as it was perceived to be a few months ago; and that is music to the ears of Montreal Canadiens fans.