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Surprise trade to acquire Aaron Ekblad? Last-minute development emerges


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Elias Adaime
July 6, 2024  (7:43 PM)
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Photo of Aaron Ekblad
Photo credit: NHL

Immediately after their Stanley Cup victory, the Florida Panthers must already think about their future, particularly with Aaron Ekblad.

GM Bill Zito will have his hands full as 11 regular players on the team could become unrestricted free agents on July 1st, and two players will be restricted free agents on the same date. This is in addition to Sam Bennett (cap hit of $4.425 million) and Carter Verhaeghe (cap hit of $4.167 million) who are both entering the last year of their contracts.

Will Aaron Ekblad be involved in a trade soon?

This is a real possibility, as mentioned above:
UFAs: Sam Reinhart (now signed), Kevin Stenlund, Vladimir Tarasenko (signed with Detroit), Kyle Okposo, Steven Lorentz, Ryan Lomberg, Nick Cousins, Oliver Ekman-Larsson (signed in Toronto), Dmitry Kulikov, Brandon Montour (signed in Seattle), and Anthony Stolarz.
RFAs: Anton Lundell and Josh Mahura.
With around $19.5 million to sign all these players, it wouldn't be surprising if the GM has to shed some big salaries. According to recent rumors, the player who might be sacrificed could be none other than Aaron Ekblad.
The veteran defenseman has one year left on his contract with a $7.5 million cap hit. What makes him attractive to GM Bill Zito is that he has a full no-movement clause that will become partial on July 1st. Ekblad will then have to submit a list of 12 teams to which he would accept a trade.
The first overall pick in the 2014 draft recently changed agents, moving from Dave Gagner at Wasserman Hockey to Craig Oster at Newport Sports.
According to Pagnotta, the defenseman would like to stay in Florida and is willing to take a pay cut on his next contract to help his GM. It is still unclear what the Panthers are looking for in return for parting with the veteran.
Ekblad, who has been frequently injured throughout his career, was limited to four goals and 14 assists in 51 games last season. He added 6 points in 22 playoff games during the Panthers' Stanley Cup run.
Despite this, several teams could be interested in the 28-year-old defenseman. The Utah Hockey Club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Nashville Predators are all reportedly looking for a top-tier defenseman.
Friedman's report suggests that the Panthers are exploring all options, even with Ekblad's contract transitioning from a no-movement clause to a partial no-trade clause. This indicates that the team is serious about finding a suitable trade partner and is willing to negotiate with interested parties.-Elliotte Friedman

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Surprise trade to acquire Aaron Ekblad? Last-minute development emerges

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