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Chris Higgins Signs With Panthers -- One year, $1.6 Million ... Mike Kitchen OUT ... Rochester Additions

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DAYTONA BEACH -- As first reported by USA Today's Kevin Allen, the Panthers have signed winger Chris Higgins to a one year deal.

This is a nice little inexpensive move ($1.6 million), as Higgins has the ability to put some pucks in the net.

"This is a bounce back year for him,'' GM Dale Tallon said. "He wanted to be here. He had three 20 goal seasons in a row, coming off a tough year. He wants to prove his worth and he thinks were going in right direction. I think he'll be a wonderful addition.''

A fast skater -- the Panthers are really putting an emphasis on speed these days -- Higgins was crushing it in Montreal before groin and shoulder injuries seem to have taken something off his game.

From the 2005-08 seasons, Higgins scored 72 goals with 56 assists for the Habs.

Higgins missed a chunk of the 2008-09 season with various injuries and was shipped to the Rangers in the offseason in the Scott Gomez deal. Higgins didn't last the season with the Rangers as he went to Calgary in the February Olli Jokinen deal after Higgins really disappointed in the Big Apple. 

Perhaps a change of scenery -- and the carrot that is another contract year next summer -- will be beneficial.

"I'm very excited, it's a great opportunity to prove myself again,'' Higgins said. "I'm glad Dale took over and glad to join him for the first year. That was a big draw for me.

"Dale taking over was pretty appealing to me. I want to prove myself to a new organization that has high hopes for their players.

"I had a great time playing in Calgary, I liked played for Brent and Darryl. Thought it was a good fit in Florida, trying to change things and become a winner. I want to be a part of that. I think Dale will put his fingerprint on the organization and he wanted me to come and be a part of it.''

For the Panthers, Higgins gives the Panthers some offensive help, and if he plays well and the team is (cough, cough) out of contention at the deadline, he could also bring something back in a trade at the deadline.

But that's looking way ahead.

(Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

- Mikekitchen - Pete DeBoer confirmed through a text message today that assistant coach Mike Kitchen will not return to the Panthers staff next season.

Kitchen spent three seasons with the Panthers, hired by Jacques Martin for the 2007-08 season and retained by DeBoer for 2008-09.

Kitchen was said to be pursuing a head coaching job, although there aren't any openings in the NHL right now. Kitchen was formerly the head coach of the Blues and came to the Panthers after being fired in St. Louis.

Last year he famously got into a dust up with Nathan Horton during a morning skate after Horton was flinging pucks into the side of the ice where Kitchen was working with Florida's defensemen.

DeBoer previously announced that Jim Hulton and Robb Tallas would return next season. Both were at the draft with DeBoer and the Panthers staff.

DeBoer says a replacement will be named next week.

-- The Panthers also made a couple of other signings for Rochester, signing RW Bill Thomas and LW Triston Grant to one year two-way contracts.

From the Panthers:

“Bill and Triston are two experienced American Hockey League players who add depth to our organization,” said Tallon. “They both understand the commitment that is necessary to play at the National Hockey League level and will have the opportunity to compete for a spot on our club when training camp opens in September.”

Thomas, 27, played in 33 games with the Springfield Falcons (AHL) last year registering 17 points (5-12-17) and appeared in six games with Lugano (Swiss) scoring two goals with one assist. For his career in the NHL, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound right wing played in 56 games for Phoenix (2005-08) and Pittsburgh (2008-09) scoring 11 goals with nine assists. The Pittsburgh, Pa., native posted professional career best numbers scoring 24 goals with 28 assists in 75 games played with the San Antonio Rampage (AHL) during the 2007-08 season.

Grant, 26, played in 74 games with the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) last year recording 25 points (12-13-25) and a team leading 236 PIM. The 6-foot-2, 215-poound left wing also appeared in three games with the Nashville Predators. For his career in the NHL, he has played in 11 games with Nashville (2009-10) and Philadelphia (2006-07) registering one assist and 19 PIM. The Neepawa, Man., native was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the ninth round (286th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Career Stats

 Stats

 Year

Team

GP

G

A

Pts

+/-

PIM

PPG

PPA

SHG

SHA

GW

SOG

Pct


 2003-04

MON

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

N/A


 2005-06

MON

80

23

15

38

-1

26

7

5

3

0

3

148

.155


 2006-07

MON

61

22

16

38

-11

26

8

7

3

0

3

159

.138


 2007-08

MON

82

27

25

52

0

22

12

13

0

1

5

241

.112


 2008-09

MON

57

12

11

23

-1

22

2

2

2

0

1

151

.079


 2009-10

CGY

12

2

1

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

28

.071


 2009-10

NYR

55

6

8

14

-9

32

0

0

0

0

1

137

.044


 Career


349

92

76

168

-22

128

29

27

8

1

13

864

.106



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