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Mike Santorelli Feeling Right at Home with Panthers


Mike Santorelli doesn't have to worry about where he's going to play next season.

On Tuesday, Panthers president Michael Yormark told a group of season ticket holders that the team has offered Santorelli a two-year contract.

That kind of job security isn't something Santorelli is used to. A member of the Predators organization the previous three years, Santorelli bounced from Nashville to its minor league team in Milwaukee.

“I'm so happy here. I'm just grateful to have this opportunity,'' Santorelli said. “I've learned so much this year as a player. My mindset is that I just want to keep getting better every day. But there's no doubt I want to be here. I love it here.''

Although Santorelli says he is happy to be wanted by the Panthers, he's not worried about contracts right now. He just wants to get his game back to where it was earlier in the season.

“My main concern right now is getting things back to where they were,'' Santorelli said Wednesday morning, a day before scoring his first goal in almost a month Thursday against the Maple Leafs. “My agent deals with all the other stuff. If it gets done now great.''

When the Panthers acquired Santorelli in a trade with Nashville last summer, it wasn't a headline move. Santorelli was looked upon as a depth acquisition, with the 25-year-old having an outside chance at making the opening night roster.

Santorelli impressed in training camp, perhaps fueled by the knowledge former Nashville assistant general manager Mike Santos was now with the Panthers and had initiated trade talks with the Predators in the first place. Santos and coach Pete DeBoer told Santorelli he had a good chance to make the team if he did the right things and gave it everything he had.

The work paid off. Santorelli was at one point leading the Panthers in scoring and in goals, and his 18 goals this season have shown that he can be a scorer in the NHL.

Things haven't been going all that well for Santorelli lately. Before scoring against the Leafs on Thursday, Santorelli had gone 11 straight games without a goal, his previous score coming Feb. 21 against the Islanders.

“It feels good to get one,'' he said afterward.

Some wonder whether the rigors of playing a full NHL schedule – against bona fide NHL competition – wore on Santorelli as the season wore on. Sure, Santorelli is used to playing a 80-plus game schedule, but with more responsibility on the defensive end against better players, it's possible Santorelli is going through an adjustment period.

Michael Grabner, the winger Florida waived during training camp to create a roster spot for Santorelli, seems to have gone through the same thing a few weeks ago. Grabner, the NHL's rookie of the month after scoring 10 goals with six assists in 14 games in February, went eight games without scoring. Grabner has three goals in his past six games heading into the Islanders game in Carolina on Friday. The Islanders visit Sunrise on Saturday night.

“I'm definitely in a slump and I want to pull through it. The only way you can do that is through hard work,'' Santorelli said. “I've been trying to work harder. Hopefully things work out. Everyone goes through this. The important part is how you come out of it. I want to come out strong.''


Santorelli's goal on Thursday gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead on Toronto going into the second intermission. That gave the Panthers some rare breathing room.

Florida's 4-0 win against Toronto was its biggest margin of victory since beating the Rangers 3-0 on Jan. 2 as 19 of Florida's previous 22 games had been decided by a goal. The Panthers have played in 44 one-goal games this season, more than any team in the league and three shy of the franchise record (2007-08). Florida hadn't beaten a team by more than a goal since the Rangers win.

“I'm glad it wasn't a one-goal game, that's for sure,'' DeBoer said. “These kids are competing hard. It's not always pretty and we don't win them all, but we've been in every game since the trade deadline with a lot of guys who haven't played in a lot of NHL games. It's pure work ethic and attention to detail. And there will be some games down the stretch where we look pretty bad, where our energy is off and it catches up to us.''

-- The Panthers are quickly getting healthier as DeBoer said that injured winger Evgeny Dadonov would play Saturday against the Islanders. Defenseman Alexander Sulzer (oblique) will be a game-time decision. To make room for Dadonov, Mike Duco was sent back to Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., after he played in two games – and got into two fights.

When, Where: 7 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Panthers lead 36-29-8
The game: The Panthers are playing the final game of what has been a fairly successful seven-game homestand. Florida has wins over Chicago, Tampa Bay and Toronto, lost in overtime to the Capitals and lost in regulation to Ottawa and Philadelphia. The Islanders, who beat the Panthers 5-1 on Feb. 21 to help kickstart the Panthers sell-off at the trade deadline, had lost two straight going into Carolina on Friday night.


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Congratulates to Michael Grabner for scoring his 29th goal tonight as he fights Jeff Skinner for rookie of the year. You have to have a lot of faith in THE BLUEPRINT based upon their waiving Grabner and not drafting Skinner. Who needs scoring? Great start for Talon in Florida.

get over Grabner already.

in all fairness we have not seen gudbranson play in the NHL yet, and I agree with the decision to leave him in Juniors. no need to start the clock on his free agency wasting a year on this team

Get over Grabner, the blueprint is earn your ice time. Grabner played like SH*T, in preseason. That's why he was waived, as he should have been. Sometimes things like this happened, get over it.

Alex- While I agree with you regarding Gudbranson, what does that have to do with Santorelli or this article? Maybe I'm reading something else. Regardless, unless Santorelli has a no-trade clause, he still can be moved to another team during his tenure here. Tallon has consistently mentioned that he wants to build the team with a good and big centerman...and I agree with his philosphy.

While Santorelli is good, he's not big and he's not a 1st line guy. So, if we acquire a 1st line C in the offseason, we would have 1) player xxx; 2) Weiss; 3) Santorelli; and 4) Reasoner. Not too shabby up the middle. The key here is, we still need that big centerman.

Was any kind of research done as far as Grabner is concerned? Is he simply a slow starter as opposed to our many no starters? Kudos to the Islanders for having the scouting chops to select him. They're building a good, young exciting team that I feel will end next season higher than the Panthers. Remember, the Panthers are looking to spend only the minimum reqired by the NHL next year which all but guarantees another bunch of journeymen golfers.

hahaah oliver stfu u comment on everything on this site,,, ur an idiot, how can u rip on gudbranson the guys nominated for like 4 awards in the O hes unbelievable, sure skinners great but gudbransons the real deal grabner is the laziest hockey player, santorelli is more complete and earned the spot and grabner did not.. just stop talking bud no one cares about your opinion your an idiot

Kevin...please stop butchering the English language. Go text somewhere else!

haha ya like im the worse of your worries , start paying attention to whats going on

Kevin, when I see someone write English as you do, I make an assumption about the intelligence of that writer.

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