The Florida Panthers have added some offense to their lineup, acquiring Jiri Hudler from the Calgary Flames. The Flames announced they will receive a second- and fourth-round draft pick from Florida for Hudler.
Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada initially reported the news.
Flames general manager Brad Treliving commented on the deal: "We want to thank Jiri for his years of service with the Flames. He is tremendous player and teammate. We wish him the very best of luck with his new club. As we continue to build our team, these picks will be valuable assets to us and also valuable capital in the market place."
Even though the Panthers hold a slight lead over Boston and Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division, they needed to make small tweaks to upgrade their roster and maintain that position with 22 games remaining.
Florida's defense and goaltending have been its calling card this season, tied with Washington for the fewest goals allowed in the Eastern Conference (139) so far. But the Panthers' 167 goals scored are tied for fourth in the eight-team division.
Hudler has taken a step back this season after a breakout 2014-15 in which he set career highs in goals (31), assists (45) and points (76). The 32-year-old has just 35 points in 53 games this year, as well as a plus-minus rating of minus-one.
The Flames, who are only ahead of Edmonton in the Pacific Division, had no reason to keep Hudler. He's making $4 million this season and will become a free agent after the Stanley Cup Final. Given his age and where the franchise is headed, it's better they moved now to at least get something for him.
Mark Spector of SportsNet.ca noted that Hudler is a divisive player when a fan asked why the Flames weren't able to get more in the deal:
Don't over value Hudler. His work in playoffs last year was poor. Scouts very mixed on this player. https://t.co/eqdVsymQAG— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) February 27, 2016
While Hudler is unlikely to reach those star-caliber heights he achieved last season, this is still a good gamble for the Panthers. His 25 assists this season would rank third among Florida players, and he's capable of lining up at any position.
The Panthers are seeking their first playoff berth since 2011-12. Adding Hudler sends a clear message to their players and fans that they are not taking this opportunity for granted after toiling near the bottom of the standings for years.