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Erik Gudbranson Doesn't Sign, Returns to Juniors ... Grabner Grabbed By Islanders ... Cats Raise $165K For Cancer

Erikguddraft2Defenseman Erik Gudbranson made the Panthers out of training camp, but he will not be playing for them this season.

Gudbranson, the third overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, did not come to a contractual agreement with the Panthers by Tuesday's 5 p.m. deadline and will be returned to his Canadian junior team in Kingston, Ontario.

Gudbranson practiced with the Panthers Tuesday morning in Coral Springs.

“Sometimes you just can't get a deal done,'' assistant general manager Mike Santos said Tuesday afternoon. “They worked at it and we worked at it. It's not over for us. We still have his rights for two more years. I'm confident we'll have him signed down the road.''

The key hangup for getting a deal done was the amount of money the Panthers were willing to pay Gudbranson in performance bonuses. As a young player signing an entry level contract, Gudbranson's base pay and signing bonus weren't going to be extravagant numbers. The performance bonuses, however, could bring his salary into the millions.

Gudbranson, who is now cleared to play for Team Canada at the world juniors later this year in Buffalo, was expected to start the season with the Panthers and then possibly be returned to Kingston.

The Panthers could have played him in nine games and then sent him back without the first year of his entry level deal being burned off. Last year, Dmitry Kulikov played the entire season after being drafted the summer before. As a result, Kulikov can theoretically become a free agent at the age of 25.

“If he was signed, I think he would have played in some games,'' Santos said. “I thought he played well in the preseason. He's only 18 years old. He's going to get better.''

General manager Dale Tallon said Tuesday the Panthers would likely start the season with the league-maximum of 23 players on the roster. That was with the thought Gudbranson would be on the team.

With the loss of Gudbranson, the Panthers have 24 players on the roster and would not have to cut anyone right now if Byron Bitz is placed on the injured reserve.

Keaton Ellerby could also be sent back to the minors as the Panthers are currently carrying eight defensemen. The Panthers have to have their roster set by 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

-- Winger Michael Grabner, who was waived by the Panthers on Sunday, was claimed as expected. He was awarded to the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Grabner was thought to be a key part of the draft day trade with Vancouver in which the Panthers sent defenseman Keith Ballard and winger Victor Oreskovich to the Canucks in exchange for Grabner, winger Steve Bernier and the 25th overall pick in the draft.

“I was not surprised [Grabner was claimed], but he didn't have a very good camp and didn't earn a spot on our roster,'' Tallon said.

“I was disappointed with his play. He has a lot of potential but you have to earn your playing time here. Reputation doesn't mean anything to me. It gives an opportunity to someone else. We liked his speed and his skill. He didn't show any skill in camp. He can skate and has skill but didn't show any of it.''

-- A good number of injured Panthers returned to practice on Tuesday after missing time with nagging injuries. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who has been nursing a bone bruise in his foot since taking a puck off his skate in a scrimmage on Sept. 18, returned as did winger Chris Higgins (groin).

Ellerby (shoulder) also practiced for a second straight day.

Bitz (lower body) and Marty Reasoner (knee) were both out.

-- The Panthers raised $165,000 for pediatric cancer at the team's annual kickoff luncheon on Monday in Coral Springs.