Report: Aaron Ekblad Could Be On His Way Out Of Florida After The Season

It might sound a bit crazy, as he gets set to help lead his Florida Panthers into the Stanley Cup Finals, but according to one report on Monday, key defenseman Aaron Ekblad could be moved this summer in order to make room to sign other key impending free agents. 

Steve Simmons writes in the Toronto Sun about what would be a stunning move by the two-time Eastern Conference champs: 

Florida wants to re-sign (Brandon) Montour who is a pending free agent, as is the 50-goal scorer Sam Reinhart. The thinking is, the Panthers will look to trade veteran Aaron Ekblad at the end of the season and use his money to keep Montour.

Simmons doesn't expound on who's doing that "thinking", but it certainly would be a shocker. 

Montour had a big dropoff offensively this season, from 73 points down to 33 points, but did battle some injury problems and played 66 games. He does have nine points in 17 playoff games and is logging a workhorse-like 23:24 time on ice per game this spring, about the same number as in the regular season. He's coming off a contract that held a $3.5 million cap and will be more cost-effective to re-sign than Ekblad, who has one year left on his $7.5 million cap hit before becoming a free agent after next season. 

Ekblad also had health problems this year, and also suffered from a big offensive decline, but still posted a plus/minus of +27 in 51 games, with 18 points.  He's also posted a +9 rating in 17 playoff games this spring, playing 22:37 a night.

But it's Reinhart who will take the biggest chunk of change to re-sign, coming off his 50-goal breakout season. As Simmons notes, and has been discussed in various quarters recently, he could sign a "tax-friendly deal brought to you by the state of Florida."

The Panthers will have somewhere around $20 million in cap space with 13 players under contract for next season. Much of that $20 mill will be consumed by Reinhart and Montour, so they will have to figure out a way to trim salary somewhere. 

But is ditching a team leader like Ekblad the way to do it? He does have a 12-team no-trade list, so that will have to be considered as well if the Panthers do in fact try to go this route. 

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