Kenndal McArdle

Small-time dealing: Panthers complete three separate trades with Calgary, Winnipeg, and Vancouver

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The Florida Panthers and GM Dale Tallon aren’t limited to just signing every free agent available under the sun. Tallon is also an accomplished trade worker as well and today he pulled off three separate deals all with Canadian teams. Two of the deals feature former top prospects coming back to Florida in return.

First up, the Panthers traded defenseman Kenndal McArdle to Winnipeg for former Pittsburgh first round pick Angelo Esposito. Esposito was once believed to be the future at center for the Penguins but was later traded to the Atlanta Thrashers as part of the Marian Hossa deal. Esposito has dealt with injury problems throughout his career and has yet to crack through to the NHL because of it. McArdle will fit in well into the depth mix in Winnipeg and he’s got some NHL experience with the Panthers.

The Panthers then dealt the rights to restricted free agent forward Mike Duco to Vancouver for the restricted free agent rights to top prospect Sergei Shirokov. While Duco shouldn’t be a problem to be signed for Vancouver, Shirokov bolted for the KHL. As George Richards of On Frozen Pond shares, the Panthers might have a wait to see him play for the team.

Shirokov recently left the Canucks to return to his KHL team in Moscow. According to Dmitry Chesnokov of, Shirokov has a three-year deal. Florida now holds his NHL rights although Chesnokov says Shirokov’s contract doesn’t have an out clause.

Shirokov scored 22 goals in each of the past two seasons with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL and was a two-time AHL all-star. He had 17 goals in 56 games in his final season with CSKA Moskow of the KHL before heading west.

If this storyline sounds familiar with the Canucks sending a highly touted prospect to the Panthers it’s because it happened just last year. The Canucks traded Michael Grabner to Florida in exchange for defenseman Keith Ballard but then waived Grabner who was then claimed by the Islanders and had a breakout season scoring 34 goals for the Isles. Should Shirokov get back to North America anytime soon and have similar success, we’re going to have to start taking a closer look at what Canucks GM Mike Gillis is doing with his young talent.

The third deal the Panthers did was a minor league deal swapping defensemen with Calgary sending Jordan Henry to Calgary in exchange for Keith Seabrook. Seabrook is the brother of Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook.

The final piece of business the Panthers took care of was re-signing center Ryan Carter. In 62 NHL games last year with the Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, and Panthers he scored three goals and six assists. With all the latest additions in Florida, Carter could find himself spending a lot of time in the AHL in San Antonio.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado