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Florida’s Growing Injury Woes Could Benefit Canadiens’ Rebuild

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Montreal Canadiens

The growing list of injuries for the Florida Panthers this early in the season could ultimately benefit the Montreal Canadiens’ rebuild.

With Anthony Duclair already out long-term and Brandon Montour not at 100%, the Florida Panthers went from bad to worse when they announced that top defenceman Aaron Ekblad would be placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve on Wednesday.

The Panthers’ defence was already considered suspect by many analysts, including NHL Insider Jeff Marek on a recent episode of 32 Thoughts, but, with the loss of Ekblad, things are looking dire. After having included Mackenzie Weegar in their package to acquire Matthew Tkachuk, the Panthers were left with one true leader on the back end, further thinning out a position of need in order to change the face of their team up front.

The Panthers, who underwent more than just a change of player personnel this summer, made some big moves to try and alter their team for more sustainable post-season success. They’ve effectively traded all of their first-round picks until 2026, moved most of their more valuable prospects and would need to sacrifice pieces of their roster in order to go after a big fish on defence like Jacob Chychrun.

With Ekblad now set to miss at least a month and a minimum of 10 games, if not more, with a Grade-2 groin tear, the Panthers will have the deck stacked against them, and, general manager Kent Hughes will be monitoring the situation quite closely; as the success, or lack thereof, of the Panthers, directly ties into his rebuild plans.

How does 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 made this offseason, along with their mounting injuries 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 the odds stacked against them, the 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; that is music to the ears of Montreal Canadiens fans.

It now remains to be seen how they’ll rebound from all this bad news, as the competition in the Atlantic Division is already set to be merciless this season.

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