PHILADELPHIA (CBSMiami) – It hasn’t happened very often over the last couple decades but the Florida Panthers find themselves in the NHL spotlight this week. The NHL Draft is Friday night and the Panthers hold the No. 1 pick but have been very open about entertaining trade offers from teams who want to move up in the draft.
The Panthers hold the first overall pick for the fourth time in their history but only once has Florida actually selected someone with the top pick. That one time was in 1994 when the Panthers were an expansion team and had yet to play an NHL game.
They selected current captain Ed Jovanovski that year and he played four seasons for the Panthers before being traded to Vancouver in the deal that brought Pavel Bure to Florida. The Panthers brought Jovanovski back when they signed him as a free agent during the summer of 2011.
The other two times that Florida held the top pick were in 2002 and 2003, both times trading the pick. In ’02 the Panthers swapped picks with the Columbus Blue Jackets who took Rick Nash with the top pick while Florida moved down to third and selected Jay Bouwmeester.
The following summer saw the Panthers once again trade the first pick, this time to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh took goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with the top pick and Florida again held the third pick, this time taking Nathan Horton.
The Panthers could very well trade the top pick again on Friday as General Manager Dale Tallon has not been shy about saying that he is listening to all offers and would entertain anything that he feels worthy of the first overall pick.
The question would be if Tallon decides to make a trade, would he want to move down a couple spots and pick up some additional picks or would he want to make a deal that would bring a proven NHL veteran that can instantly produce for the Panthers in the upcoming season?
“It’s going to be a tough decision for us if we do take the pick,” Tallon told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald on the eve of the draft. “We’re about 70 percent we’re going to take the pick. We’ve had a few real concrete offers that are intriguing, one really intriguing one. We’re going to have a sleepless night tonight.”
Tallon has said that if he does trade the pick the Panthers would want to an established forward or defenseman as well as a pick inside of the top ten.
“[The offers] are over and above what we thought we would get,” explained Tallon, though he wouldn’t go into details about which teams or players are being discussed. “We have another offer close to it. We’ll see what happens in the next 24 hours.”
The draft features three players who are considered the cream of the crop and could be selected with the first overall pick.
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad is thought to be the most NHL-ready and the favorite to be taken with the first pick. Forwards Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart are the other possibilities to be taken at the top of the draft.
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