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Come on Down, You're Next to Sign with the Florida Panthers!

Stanleyprice Dale Tallon promised he was going to rebuild the Panthers when he arrived in town last summer, and Friday was his biggest step in doing just that.

Tallon and assistant general manager Mike Santos were the busiest executives in all of professional sports on Friday as the Panthers either signed or traded for eight new players.

Despite dark skies and a steady rain, there were few gloomy faces at the BankAtlantic Center. It was a rare day in which the sun definitely shone on the Florida Panthers.

“It was a great team effort in pushing this franchise in the right direction,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. “We're very satisfied with the day.''

Jovocop2 The biggest names brought in: Defenseman Ed Jovanovski, forwards Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg as well as goalie Jose Theodore.

The Panthers went from last place in the league in committed salary for next season toward the middle of the pack. Florida now has more money (an estimated $48 million) committed to the 2011-12 season than the Rangers, Maple Leafs, Senators, Avalanche and Predators among others.

“I'm really excited to be a Panther,'' said winger David Booth, one of the few holdouts from last season. “This is by far the most we've done since I've been here. This is change that's been needed. It's going to be a brand new team, guys have a lot to prove. This is awesome to see. I want to be part of this process. I know things are going to change around here. These guys want to win. Man, it's exciting.''

How busy were the Panthers? Florida hooked four players less than two hours into the opening of the free agent market. By the end of the day, four more were in. Florida didn't announce the Bergenheim signing until after 8 p.m.

And the Panthers aren't done yet.

“The phone just keeps ringing,'' said Santos, who didn't leave the arena until after 9 p.m. “It seems like every time we add a player another wants to join us. It's just another step in the process.''

The first deals of the day came not long after the opening bell sounded Friday at noon. Theodore, who won the Vezina Trophy for the league's top goaltender in 2001-02 for Montreal, was one of the first to come into the fold. The Panthers had been negotiating with goalie Tomas Vokoun and said he was their first choice.

Vokoun's agent apparently passed on Florida's final offer when told the team was close to signing Theodore, so Vokoun's four-year run with the Panthers is over. Theodore was signed with the thought he'll start next season, although Scott Clemmensen – Vokoun's backup the past two seasons – will have a shot at the job. Theodore was one of the cheapest players signed by Florida on Friday, the 34-year-old veteran getting $1.5 million in each of the next two seasons. Vokoun had been making $5.7 million.

Theodore ranks sixth among active NHL goalies in games played (580) and is eighth in wins (260).

Not long after inking Theodore and Upshall, Florida brought back Jovanovski. The first pick of the 1994 draft by the Panthers, Jovanovski was traded to Vancouver as part of the Pavel Bure deal back in 1999. There had often been talk of 'JovoCop' returning to the Panthers, although things never worked out. Jovanovski, a five-time All-Star, signed a four-year deal with the Panthers.

“It's good to be back in Florida, especially with the moves that Dale is making,'' Jovanovski said. “The guys they're adding shows great promise for the organization. You have to believe it will get done looking at Dale's past and what he did in Chicago. You have to look at him as the primary reason all those guys are there.''

Tallon was able to swing a big deal for Flyers forward Kris Versteeg later in the day, giving up a second  and a third round pick in the process. Versteeg, 25, won the Stanley Cup in 2010 has hit the 20-goal plateau in each of the past two seasons. The Panthers had been rumored to be in the market for Versteeg for some time.

Florida later added Fleischmann, a talented winger who has had health issues in the past. Fleischmann missed most of last season after it was discovered that he had blood clots in both lungs.

Fleischmann, who played for Washington and Colorado last year, was put on blood thinners and has been cleared to continue his career. Bergenheim, the latest edition to the Panthers Red Friday Class of 2011, scored nine playoff goals for the rival Lightning last season. He'll get $2.75 million in each of the next four seasons.

The Panthers may not be completely fixed, but the overhaul is definitely underway.

“This was a very easy decision for me to make,'' Upshall said. “This is going to be a fun year. .-.-. It's a great feeling. I can't describe the joy that today has brought.''



Comments

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After listening to the video, it didn't appear as if the Panthers were done. Any insight GR?

This is a great day to be a Panther fan. It is so refreshing to see panther fans so excited about the upcoming season. I can't wait for the puck to drop. Great job by all in the Panther's organization- Tallon and Santos, you guys are awesome.

Im not a hockey fan, but a sports fan. But reading this and watching the Stanley cup got me into hockey! Im now a Proud Panthers fan after reading this! Go CATS!!!

gosh, was today the expansion draft for the panthers..? I'm very impressed with Tallon team, it must have been a lot of work to get all those free agents lined up. Great job!

Dadanov
Booth
Weiss
Howden (he's NHL ready)
Huberdeau (maybe)
to add to those forwards. Most of them have 20 goal or more potential so this team should have 3 good scoring lines and a really good 4th checking line.

now only if we would of kept Grabner and Frolik

yea Skille is a bum. They shouldn't have given up on Frolik.

How can you honestly complain about grabner? The guy had a very bad camp and we just couldnt use him. He got picked up by the Islanders on the way down...big deal...they also screwed Detroit out of a goaltender.

In any case, it is shaping up to be an exciting '11-'12 season!

Versteeg has scored 20 goals in each of the last THREE seasons. give credit, where credit is due. and he nearly won the Calder. go cats!

LINE PAIRINGS FOR OPENING NIGHT:

LINE 1: BOOTH WEISS VERSTEEG (no questions here)

LINE 2: FLEISHMANN SANTORELLI DADONOV (this russian kid can score)

LINE 3: BERGENHEIM GOC KOPECKY (three genuine grinders, great line)

LINE 4: UPSHALL MATTHIAS SKILLE (fantastic energy here)


D1: JOVANOVSKI CAMPBELL (has offense and reliable on D)

D2: KULIKOV ELLERBY (showed great potential together last season)

D3: GUDBRANSON WEAVER (garrison misses out if guds is signed)


G1: THEODORE (i believe should be designated starter)

G2: CLEMMENSON (should still start around 30 games for the year)


huberdeay should be given another year in juniors, he needs to physically mature and shouldn’t be rushed into things like we’ve done with the majority of top prospects in the past. he’s going to be spectacular though when he makes the team for 2012-13!

OnFrozenFan I like what you did with the starting lineup. I would move Upshaw with Goc and Kopecky. However just looking at the lineup brings tears to my eyes.

Howden NHL ready? Says who? We need to let our prospects develop and not play 4th line minutes when they can be dominating the juniors or the A (if eligible). That was the whole plan behind today. We have a complete NHL team that can let the Hubs, Howdens, Shores, Guds, etc., develop at their own pace and not be forced into roles they aren't ready for. Most of our deals were 4 year deals, which means our prospects will be able to come in when those deals are expiring or nearing expiration. Brilliance by Tallon.

Did we over pay? Sure as heck yes we did, but we needed to as that's the nature of the FA market. But we have the best Panther team I've seen on paper since 2000, maybe even better with 4 true scoring lines.

Vokoun just went to the Capitals for 1.5 million, good luck to him...

I bet philly is kicking themselves after signing Bryzgalov to that $50 million waste

Tallon did a good job; however, I am unhappy that he didn't unload TVo or Reasoner LAST YEAR at the trade deadline. We lost TVo for nothing...and he is worth a whole lot more than $1.5M.

Anyway, the team will be better next year, for sure.

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