Gallant would be ‘shocked’ if Panthers dealt young talent at deadline

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Just three points out of a playoff spot and in the mix to be a deadline buyer, the Florida Panthers will be interesting to watch as Mar. 2 draws closer.

But to hear head coach Gerard Gallant explain it, any potential deal won’t involve the Panthers’ young prospects.

“I don’t foresee that happening,” Gallant said, per CBS Radio Miami. “We’re staying the course. We’re going to play our young guys, because our young guys are playing real well and they’re a big part of our team.

“I’d be shocked if anything like that happens. You’d have to get an unbelievable offer, but we’re planning on doing this for the long haul.”

It’s easy to see why Gallant was asked about parting with his young stars. Florida’s current position in the standings and reports that the club was interested in Toronto’s Phil Kessel kicked things off — and, obviously, the Panthers have enough tantalizing young assets to pull off a blockbuster. Their three leading scorers are 22-year-old Nick Bjugstad, 19-year-old Aaron Ekblad and 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau while the likes of Aleksander Barkov (who’s 19), Alex Petrovic (who’s 22) and Erik Gudbranson (who’s 23) are key contributors as well.

The club’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio also loaded. Promising prospects like Vincent Trocheck, Rocco Grimaldi, Jonathan Racine and Connor Brickley have played well this year and could be knocking on the NHL door sooner rather than later (Trocheck, Grimaldi and Racine have all made their big-league debuts already.)

Despite this seeming surplus of talent, Panthers GM Dale Tallon sounds loathe to part with any of his youngsters. Instead, veterans like Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Fleischmann are being dangled, in part to open up more spots on the active roster for young players.

“The young guys are coming up,” Gallant explained. “I don’t anticipate anybody being traded — any of our young players. We’d be shocked.”