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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



Comments

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Nice signing. Low risk high reward type of player at 1.6 million. At the very worst, he's a hard working PKer & forechecker that fits the Tallon mold of size & speed (over 6 feet, about 200 lbs).

Now let's about getting us a guy like Lombardi to center the 2nd line. I feel some trades may be in the works though...

outstanding move by the panthers...nothing but upside on this deal...1 year, relatively cheep, and incentive to have a good season here with another contract year coming up.

Tallon's looking more clever by the day. If any of his acquisitions have the breakout season that's been expected of them, Dale comes out looking like a genius. If not, he can cut 'em free at the end of the season or pick up more second/third rounders for them at the trade deadline.

Tallon has clearly learned from his mistakes in Chicago. He is not going to dish out ridiculous contracts that hold a team hostage for years. Higgans had some injuries in 2009 & just had a bad year last year, but 2 years ago he scored 27 goals. If he can find his groove again on our top 6, then it could payoff. If it doesn't, he'll be traded for another pick at the deadline & it's no big loss either way for the Panthers.

The only guy I'd like to see on a multi year deal is Lombardi, who's only 27 and could hold down a top 6 center position until Bjugstad is ready. Matthias, you just can't count on yet to win that role and he may never.

Two lines of Booth-Weiss-Frolik and Higgins-Lombardi-Grabner would be very fast & skilled, and may just let us compete for something beyond last place.

Given the circumstances, I don't have a problem with this signing at all. Just hope we can still address the center position and get some more depth on the blueline as FA progresses.

I agree with Mase. Well said.

Good addition if he can stay healthy.

Higgins, "Dale taking over was pretty appealing to me....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."

This shows the importance of having a quality GM that players trust their word. Dale Tallon was respected by the Blackhawk players, other players know that, that helps get players to come to the Panthers because Tallon has a great reputation.

We just lost Lombardi he signed with Phoenix.... DAMN IT!!!

matt, he signed with nashville. outbid by preds, WOW

Nice pick-up in Higgins, and fairly priced too.. Lombardi would've been nice and somewhat reasonably priced at 3yrs/$10.5mill, but that's a product of being caught with so many bad contracts... Tallon's weeded out a few, but will probably have to ride out a few more before spending too much...

Another good sign is that they're finally building DEPTH, whereby it will create guys to have to COMPETE to not only get a job, but hold it... Everyone's replaceable, so let that be the message here, and we won't have as many free-loaders...

Booth-Weiss-Frolik, Grabner-Rhino-Higgins, Dvorak-Matthias-Stillman/, McArdle-Bitz-Bernier.... Olesz will have to get a look somehere.. It's not sexy, but there already seems to be extra fwds in the group to force competition....

Edmonton sounded like they were willing to take offers for Ales Hemsky.. He's small and softer, but he's a great set-up man and makes the PP run smoothly.. Any way we could send Grabner, Rhino, and a pick for Hemsky and Cogliano??

Panthers are the L.A. Clippers of the NHL. What a disappointment as I have been a fan since 1993. It is tough to get up for this team anymore.

I understand that they can't just sign a premier player and become instant contenders because they do not have a deep enough roster... BUT... inking an established goal-scorer to a multiyear deal would bring fan interest and buzz back, and he may be signed long enough to still be here when the team IS ready to contend.

I wouldn't trade Grabner yet, those Canucks fans were angry for a reason.

Tallon brings respect back to an organization that has been the laughing stock of sports.

He can only fix so many problems in a year. He is doing it the right way. We are set in goal (he can use Vokoun to get more assets later in the season) he is building the defense and he has addressed the center position in the draft that will provide dividends in 2 to 3 years.

The goal is not the playoffs it is to win the stanley cup. This is the first time this organization has had this goal since 1999.

We then will be able to change Yormark's slogan "we came to play" to "we came to win the cup"

Like Richard I have been a fan from the beginning and have watched this organization of hard working professionals become the softest team in the league, one where players came to rest and play and not one that came to win.

We finally have a real GM and he is doing it his way. The organization is slowly coming back to an NHL level organization instead of the joke it has been for years.

I like everything Tallon has done so far, everything won't work but at least he is making moves instead of worrying that he will make the wrong move and waiting too late to get assets.

Lazy Nate is gone and if he could the rest of the lazy bums would be gone as well but they have no value at their contracts that JM the GM and Sexton left us with.

Tallon is doing the exact thing, so far, I have said has been needed to be done.

Higgins isn't over 6 foot. He has previously been listed as 5'10", but he can play every forward position, making him versatile. Panthers need to look into Mike Comrie. He's another shortie, but a solid center. He earned $1.125 M last season, so he might be persuaded to leave the confines of Edmonton with a small pay raise.

Ponikarovsky, Fedotenko, Svatos, and to an extent Stempniak, can all be had inexpensively. Panthers shouldn't be gifting a top line spot to Frolik, Grabner, or anyone on the current roster. Short one year contracts is the way to go, with performance based criteria for a second year option to automatically kick in, if necessary. Panthers need to develop what talent they have in the minors, by being in the minors.

Tallon has walked into the same situation Dudley did. Ironically, Dudley was his chief advisor and director of player personnel before becoming Asst. GM.

I believe Atlanta & Florida will have the most improvements from last year. Mainly because of their GM changes. Two very good hockey minds, with lots of expierence. They have both made their mistakes in the pasts( Tallon OFFER sheet debacle,last year)but they won't make them again and they learned those lessons on someone elses dime. I'm a life long Habs fan from Canada, and I would have loved to get Higgans back. Good well rounded player and former 1st rounder. GO DOLPHINS GO!!

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