The Florida Panthers sent shockwaves throughout the NHL when they acquired the young superstar Matthew Tkachuk from Calgary.
Not only did the Panthers acquire a 24-year-old superstar who is coming off a career season, but the Flames also received a king’s ransom to help build the team for the future.
A 100-point scorer in Jonathan Huberdeau, a top defensive player in MacKenzie Weegar and a first-round pick all went back to Calgary.
But while the Flames clearly made out like bandits in one of the biggest trades of the off-season, Florida is once again looking at a potential Stanley Cup run themselves with Tkachuk now under team control.
A move this seismic doesn’t just affect the two teams involved though. Neither Florida nor Calgary are in the loaded Metropolitan division for the New York Rangers. While a move like this won’t impact a team like the Rangers immediately, any cup contender is affected by the move.
And the New York Rangers are absolutely Stanley Cup contenders.
Florida Keeps Pace with Tampa
The Florida Panthers won the Atlantic Division last season thanks in large part to Huberdeau and a well-balanced group.
The President Trophy winners were expected to make a deep playoff run but were stopped cold by the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa Bay didn’t end up winning the Stanley Cup Final, but they did knock off the Rangers in six games. While Florida and Tampa can be considered the class of the Atlantic Division, it’s clear the Panthers are looking for any edge over their rival.
Trading for Tkachuk certainly helps turn the balance of power over to them, but it also helps New York as well.
Florida was swept by Tampa in the second round of last year’s playoffs. While Tampa has been the class of the East, any team that is able to knock them off is an edge to New York. The Rangers play a very unique game of hockey that can be very helpful come playoff time.
Any chance of not having to go through the Tampa Bay Lightning is something that immediately helps the Rangers.
Regardless if it means that Florida is a better team immediately.
One less team to worry about at the Trade Deadline
The Florida Panthers are a team that is ready for a deep playoff run now. They have very few assets for future trade chips, and most of their players are locked up in long-term deals.
That means a quality rival for the top seed in the Eastern Conference won’t be in the market for potential trade pieces to help their own team when the trade deadline comes through.
In just the last year, the Rangers showed how important a strong deadline acquisition could be. Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Tyler Motte, and others were acquired that helped New York reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
While it’s too early to think about how good or bad the Rangers will be when the deadline hits, general manager Chris Drury has already shown a willingness to make any deal possible to help the team succeed.
The acquisition of Tkachuk basically leaves Florida with very little room to make any sort of move at the deadline. So while the Rangers and Panthers could be locked in a battle for the top seed in the East, Florida would most likely be silent at the deadline while the Rangers could improve their roster in many different ways.
Players like Patrick Kane are expected to be patient until a team like the Blackhawks can move him for a good haul at the deadline. The Rangers have already been linked before to Kane, but with the plethora of prospects and assets they have, they are even more likely to nab a player of his caliber as opposed to a team like Florida.
In a loaded Eastern Conference, the Rangers need to be able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. The team, as constructed, is good enough to make a deep playoff run.
But it will be the moves at the trade deadline that could very well separate the Panthers, Rangers, and others across the rest of the NHL world.
A Matthew Tkachuk trade certainly makes the Panthers a true contender in the Eastern Conference. While New York wouldn’t expect to face them until the East Finals, there are still plenty of reasons why a move like this impacts the Blueshirts and their chances of getting to the Stanley Cup Final.
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