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14 posts from July 2012

July 23, 2012

VERSTEEG IS HOME IN FLORIDA: Panthers Sign Kris Versteeg to Four-year Deal

VersteegBY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

When the Panthers traded for Kris Versteeg last July, it marked the winger's fourth team in three seasons.

It appears Versteeg's nomadic ways are behind him.

The Panthers avoided going to arbitration with Versteeg on Monday by signing him to a four-year deal worth $4.4 million per season.

Versteeg said the deal was done on Saturday night, thus canceling Versteeg's scheduled arbitration hearing in Toronto. That hearing was scheduled for Monday.

“You negotiate right to the bitter end and you see [deals are reached] a lot,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. “We didn't want to go to arbitration and came up with a deal that worked out for both sides. That's how it goes. You try to get the best possible deal and that's what we did.''

Versteeg had been talking about signing a long-term deal with the Panthers since last season, and it was Versteeg2somewhat surprising that he elected to take the Panthers to arbitration in the first place.

Versteeg said he did so only to set a deadline with the Panthers and accelerate talks. Tallon said Versteeg wanting to be a member of the Panthers played a role in how the organization dealt with him.

“He wants to stay here, wants to be with us and see this thing through to a Stanley Cup contender,'' Tallon said. “We want people who want to be Panthers. That's very important to us. He wants to be here for a long time and that's a real positive.''

Had Versteeg and the Panthers gone through with arbitration, he would have received a one-year deal with free agency coming after this coming season.

On Monday, Versteeg said he was prepared for an arbitration hearing but didn't think it would go that far. He was right.

“It's funny how long it took to get done, but there are two sides who want a fair deal,'' Versteeg said. “I think both sides got a fair deal and we're both excited about the future of the franchise. .-.-. We knew a deal would get done, didn’t think we would have to go [to arbitration].

"I was confident we would get something done. Saturday night was the night it officially got done. Sunday I would have flown to Toronto. It all came together perfectly for both sides.''

Tallon originally brought Versteeg to Chicago in 2007 and Versteeg became a regular for the Blackhawks that following season and won the Stanley Cup in 2010.

Versteeg was moved to Toronto following Chicago's championship run mostly because of financial reasons but he didn't fit in with the Maple Leafs and was Versteeg3traded to Philadelphia for its playoff run.

The Flyers traded Versteeg to Florida on July 1, 2011 and he didn't disappoint. The 26-year-old right winger had a career-high 23 goals and 53 points as he played in 71 games – most of which came alongside Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss on Florida's top line.

“He's still a young guy and had a career year last year,'' Tallon said. “His ceiling is quite high. He has the opportunity to get better and grow on and off the ice. I think he has tremendous up side.''

Versteeg played much of the second half of the season battling a hip injury, one that needed surgery soon after the playoffs ended. Versteeg said he had a torn labrum and needed an anti-inflammatory injection before the postseason began.

Versteeg seemed energized once the playoffs started and scored scored three goals with two assists in seven games against the Devils.

Since having surgery in April, Versteeg says he has felt good and will begin skating in the middle of August. Versteeg had sports hernia surgery last summer.

“It is something that's in the back of your mind but you have to play through it,'' Versteeg said. “In the playoffs we tried to shoot it up to help it out and it felt better at the end of the season. During the season it gets on your mind but you don't want to make excuses.''

Versteeg is now the Panthers' second-highest paid forward behind Fleichmann with Weiss eligible to become a free agent after this coming season.

Tallon said informal talks with Weiss' agent have already started and Florida is expected to offer Weiss another long-term deal sometime in the near future. Weiss, a candidate to be Florida's next captain, signed a six-year deal with Florida in 2007.

The Panthers now have all of their regulars for next season under contract save for defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. Tallon said the Panthers were continuing to work with Kulikov and a deal is expected to be reached before the end of the month.

Kulikov, 21, just completed his third NHL season and is a restricted free agent.

“We're trying to get Kulikov signed to some term and we're in the process of working that out,'' Tallon said. “We're in good shape. We're looking forward to a good season.''





July 20, 2012

FOR LOVE OF THE GAME: Dov Grumet-Morris Keeps Rolling, Ready for Chance with Panthers

DovBY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

Most of the talk revolving around the Panthers goaltending situation this season has been whether or not the team will bring back Roberto Luongo.  

Although that potential trade with Vancouver hasn't gone anywhere – although it still could as training camp isn't scheduled to start until September – the Panthers have made some moves to strengthen that position.

On July 1, not long before the free agency period opened, backup Scott Clemmensen was resigned to a two-year deal. The Panthers then signed 30-year-old Dov Grumet-Morris to a two-way contract and also signed 19-year-old Michael Houser.

Grumet-Morris spent last season with Florida's AHL team in San Antonio, helping the Rampage to the playoffs and earning a new contract.

Dov2The Panthers may have brought Grumet-Morris up to the big leagues last year when injuries struck, only his AHL-only contract prohibited that.

“The past couple of years, had I been on an NHL contract, I may have been called up,'' Grumet-Morris said. “If you don't have the proper contract, no matter how good you play, it's not a meritocracy. There are only so many contracts and once they are given out, they are gone.''

Although both Grumet-Morris (San Antonio) and Houser (ECHL Cincinnati) will likely start the upcoming season in the minors, Florida feels it has enhanced its depth. Both will be at training camp once – if -- the league's labor issues are settled.

For Grumet-Morris, competing at an NHL training camp is something he likely hadn't considered a few years ago.

A former draft pick of the Flyers, Grumet-Morris floated from one minor league team to the next before deciding to play in Europe.

After two seasons in Austria, Grumet-Morris turned down a lucrative deal to stay in Europe for another shot at making the big leagues. If Grumet-Morris somehow makes it into a game with the Panthers this season, it will be the culmination of a long road.

Grumet-Morris has appeared in over 260 minor league games for 14 different teams in five different countries in four different leagues. A Harvard graduate who majored in international relations and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Grumet-Morris knows there's more for him after hockey.

So when the big offer came from Europe, Grumet-Morris sat down with wife Rachel – who is a surgeon in Houston and recently gave birth to their first child – to discuss their options.

Dov3“Usually when you leave and go to Europe, it means you gave it a try and it just didn't work out,'' said Grumet-Morris, who turned pro in 2005.

“When you go to Europe, it usually means you are going to stay. I did get a lot of experience because I needed the starts there. If you said I would come back and be going to an NHL training camp, no, I wouldn't have believed you.''

Grumet-Morris split the 2010-11 season in Greenville, S.C. (ECHL) and Hartford, Conn. (AHL), catching the attention of an old friend. Mike Santos, the assistant GM of the Panthers, knew Grumet-Morris from their days in the Nashville organization and signed him to an AHL deal last season.

Santos told Grumet-Morris that a strong showing would bring a better contract, one that comes with the possibility of playing in the NHL some day. Grumet-Morris has that contract now.

“I have taken a circuitous route but my goal since last season was to be in training camp. It's the next step,'' Grumet-Morris said.

“I do have a passion for the game. I started playing when I was 3 and here I am 27 years later. I still wake up every day ready to go to the rink. I'm not saying there aren't difficult days. But my passion is to get better. I strive for excellence in everything I do.''

The Panthers currently have four goalies who will likely see time in Florida this season in Jose Theodore, Clemmensen, Grumet-Morris and Jacob Markstrom.

Grumet-Morris got a lot of playing time in San Antonio last season when Markstrom came up to Florida because of injury and at one point started 19 straight games.

Goalie coach Robb Tallas says the Panthers have plenty of confidence in Grumet-Morris because he isn't much of an unknown. Aside from working with Santos and Tallas in the past, he also played for Panthers coach Kevin Dineen in Portland five seasons ago.

“He's a highly educated guy who is very smart and loves the game of hockey. He  just wants to play,'' Tallas said.

“His goal is to make the NHL and he hasn't given up on that. He works very hard and puts more work into it than anyone. He's the first guy on the ice every single day. He spends all his time working on his game.

“Our organization has given guys chances and here's a guy who is mature, hasn't had it easy and is putting up the numbers. There's a trust there. If we need someone to come up, he can do it. We wouldn't worry about that.''

Wellman--The Panthers sent a fifth round draft pick in 2014 to the Rangers on Friday for center Casey Wellman.

The 24-year-old from California has played in 41 NHL games (all with the Minnesota Wild) and ended last season in the minors after being traded to the Rangers on Feb. 3.



July 12, 2012

GOING BACK TO MINNY: Nick Bjugstad Spurns Panthers for Junior Year with Gophers ... Dale Tallon Readies for Arbitration with Kris Versteeg

Bjug3BY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Center Nick Bjugstad announced Thursday that he will return to the University of Minnesota for his junior year and not sign with the Panthers.

GM Dale Tallon had said the 6-6 Bjugstad would have competed for a spot on the Panthers roster had he turned pro.

Tallon added that the team didn't put any pressure on their 2010 first round draft pick and are fine with the decision he made.

Bjugstad helped the Gophers to the Frozen Four last year and his return makes them a heavy favorite to make the trip to Pittsburgh this season.

"This is the right spot for me," Bjugstad said in a statement released by the school.

“I am going to be close to finishing my education and Goldiegopherhopefully can accomplish the goal that I have had ever since I was little, which is winning a national championship.''

Said Minnesota coach Don Lucia: “We are obviously excited Nick is returning. I think Nick felt that he had a little bit more room to grow as a person and as a player. The great thing is that at the end of his junior year is that he will be very close to graduating college. He can be a leader on our team and he feels he can continue to get better in our program.''

() Tallon said there has been no progress in contract talks with winger Kris Versteeg who elected to take the team to arbitration later this month. Florida had hoped to sign Versteeg to a long-term deal this offseason.

While that could still happen before the scheduled hearing, it doesn't sound like it will.

"The ball is in their court,'' Tallon said.  

At the very least, Vertseeg will get a one-year deal at a price determined by the arbiter; the two could continue talks about an extension after that.

Versteeg can be a free agent following next season.

() The Panthers signed goalie Michael Houser and defenseman Josh McFadden to entry level deals. The two are expected to be at training camp but start the season in the minors.

Houser, named most outstanding player in the Ontario Hockey League last season, is expected to start at ECHL Cincinnati; McFadden will likely start at AHL San Antonio.




MUELLER. MUELLER: Panthers Sign Talented, Though Oft-Injured, Peter Mueller for Next Season

FerristeacherBY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers took a gamble on a player they think can help their offense by signing forward Peter Mueller to a one-year contract on Thursday.

Mueller, 24, is a talented player who scored 22 goals in 81 games as a rookie with Phoenix. Mueller has suffered multiple concussions since, however, but said Thursday that his doctors are behind him “100 percent” and that he hasn't felt this good physically since that freshman campaign in 2007-08.

“There are no red flags,'' Mueller said. “Everything is a go.''

The Avalanche chose not to tender a contract offer to Mueller (he made $2 million last season and was due a 10 percent raise) thereby putting him on the market at such a young age.

Mueller's new deal with the Panthers is for $1.7 million as Florida retains his rights for the 2013-14 season as well. General manager Dale Tallon talked about Mueller playing alongside former teammate Scottie Upshall and rookie Jonathan Huberdeau.

Mueller“I'm just looking forward to a fresh start. There's no secret about my past,'' said Mueller, who has missed big chunks of the past three seasons because of concussions.

“As I spoke to Dale, he told me what he's expecting out of me and I'm expecting a lot out of myself. I'm coming in with a great attitude. I'm ready to rock and roll this coming season.''

Mueller's problems started in 2010 soon after being traded to Colorado from Phoenix as he suffered a season-ending concussion in April. Mueller came to camp the following fall and everything looked fine. Mueller took another shot to the head in the Avalanche's first preseason game, however, and he missed the entire 2010-11 season.

Last season was one of conflict for Mueller. After missing the first 40 games, Mueller returned and had some strong games – including a two-goal performance in an overtime win against the Panthers four games into his return. Mueller had some groin issues as well last year, but scored seven goals in 32 games.

“I hope to get him the way he was his rookie year,'' Tallon said. “He seems to be revitalized. We did our due diligence. He understands this is a great opportunity. He's a top six forward with size and skill. He's still young. This is well worth the risk for us to sign him to a one-year deal and hopefully get back to where he was before he was injured.''

Florida hasn't been very active on the free agent market since it opened July 1, adding a few minor league prospects as well as Mueller, defenseman Filip Kuba and enforcer George Parros. The Panthers have lost defenseman Jason Garrison (Vancouver), Mikael Samuelsson (Detroit), Krys Barch (New Jersey) and Wotjek Wolski (Washington).

The Panthers hope that they replaced Samuelsson with Mueller. If he is able to stay healthy, they just may have.

“We think he can play the point on the power play, has good skills,'' Tallon said. “I liked him this past year, the two years he played in Denver. We checked him out and everything checked out fine. He's excited about the opportunity. He's young and has a lot of good years ahead of him. If he plays well, he could be here for a very long time.''


July 05, 2012

FUEL UP: Panthers D Alex Petrovic Plays With 'An Edge' ... Versteeg Files for Arbitration ... Cats have a New Jacques

PetroBY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

It's understandable if Alex Petrovic was a little distracted toward the end of last season.

One of the Panthers top prospects, Petrovic knew he was in the final weeks of his junior season with the Red Deer Rebels in Alberta.

The Rebels were out of the playoff chase and playing out the string. Petrovic was as well – knowing when their season ended, his would continue.

Petrovic, a second round draft pick by Florida in 2010, was off to San Antonio as soon as Red Deer's season came to a close. His professional hockey career was going to begin as soon as he could get to Texas.

“It was kind of tough to focus because you know the reality of what's going to happen,'' Petrovic said. “Our team has tons of injuries and had we had them, we would have done well in the playoffs.

"It was unfortunate our season ended early so you have to try and end the season right, play with pride. I took a lot of pride in wearing that jersey. We tried to win them all. But when it was over, I knew I wasn't going to be around.''

A few days after Red Deer played its final game of the season, Petrovic was in the lineup for the Panthers' AHL affiliate in San Antonio. Soon, he'll be battling for a spot on the Panthers roster.

“Just playing at the end of the year was great for me, I was able to get my feet under me,'' said Petrovic, named the top defenseman in the Rebels' division in the Western Hockey League last year.

“Being able to play in the playoffs was a great experience for me. I learned guys are harder to knock around, that's for sure.''

Petro2The Panthers had been keeping an eye on Petrovic in his final two seasons of junior hockey and were ready to bring him into the organization once his team was through playing.

Petrovic was eased into the San Antonio lineup and played in five regular season games – notching a goal with an assist. In the playoffs, however, Petrovic played in nine games and got two goals and four assists as the Rampage were knocked out in the second round.

At this week's prospect camp, Petrovic as looked on as one of the veterans, one of the few players to have played in a professional game.

That won't be the case in September when the Panthers' training camp is scheduled to open. Petrovic will be battling for a roster spot with players much older and more seasoned than he is.

Only Petrovic looks at that as an opportunity to learn. Florida has a stable of veteran blueliners such as Ed Jovanovski, Mike Weaver, Filip Kuba and Brian Campbell. Bryan McCabe, the Panthers former captain, will also be around as he now works in player development.

“Whenever camp comes, I'm going to lay it all on the line and do everything I can,'' Petrovic said. “I want to grab a spot on that roster as soon as I can. There is no time to waste.''

McCabe said he liked what he saw in Petrovic last season in San Antonio – especially during the playoffs. A stay at home defenseman, Petrovic is good at breaking opponents away from the puck and kicking it out.

Petrovic can also play a physical game – something that's going to get noticed by the Panthers.

“He's a big kid who has skills and really plays with an edge,'' McCabe said. “He has a huge upside and I'm looking forward to see him move up in this organization. He's still a young guy who is going to grow and learn. Us older guys can help him move up through the ranks. He has all the potential in the world. I'm looking forward to working with him.''

() Panthers winger Kris Versteeg has elected to take the team to arbitration as the two sides work on a new contract.

Versteeg is a restricted free agent who has been qualified by the club. The hearing would be canceled if an agreement is worked out ahead of time.

Hearings will be held in Toronto from July 20 to August 4. A total of 16 players from around the league have elected to go to arbitration so far.

() The Panthers signed potential fourth line winger Jean-Francois Jacques to a one-year deal on Thursday. Jacques signed a two-way contract so he will likely start the season in the minors.

“He is a hard working and tough to play against forward that adds further depth to our club,” general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement.

The 27-year-old Jacques has played in 166 NHL games, mostly with Edmonton from 2005-11. Jacques played in six games for Anaheim last season while scoring 21 goals at the AHL level.

() Friday is the final day of the Panthers prospect camp. The team is scheduled for a 9 a.m. scrimmage at the Coral Springs Iceplex. Admission is free.



July 04, 2012

QUICK LEARNER: Boston College-bound Michael Matheson Looks to Impress Panthers at Prospect Camp

Matheson3BY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

Unlike some at prospect camp this week, defenseman Michael Matheson isn't aiming for a roster spot with the Panthers. At least not just yet.

Matheson, 18, was Florida's first round pick at last month's NHL draft in Pittsburgh and although he's off to Boston College in the fall, Matheson is trying to leave a lasting impression on Florida's front office.

“In some way, I am just trying to sort everything out, soak everything in and learn everything I can,'' said Matheson, the 23rd overall pick last month.

“But I'm here with the mentality that I want to make this team right now. I know that probably won't happen, but there's no point to come here and be relaxed just because I won't be here next year. I'm working hard. You can't impress anyone if you are just feeling your way around out there.''

Unlike past years, the Panthers didn't have a high draft pick. There was speculation general manager Dale Tallon would trade his way up in the draft, and Mathesonalthough he didn't, the Panthers seem pleased with landing Matheson that late in the opening round.

“He's a guy we really wanted and needed,'' Tallon said not long after selecting Matheson.

“He can really skate and I love defensemen who can really skate. He's arguably the best skater in the draft and is a guy who can move the puck. I like guys like that. This guy will bring speed from the back end and that is something we needed to focus on. He was someone we really targeted.''

Matheson was lauded for his skating by Florida's scouts and has looked quick and confident in the opening two days of the developmental camp in Coral Springs.

The Panthers may be deep on defense, but it's always good to have plenty of depth at that position. Matheson will likely spend the next two or three seasons at Boston College before signing on with the Panthers organization.

Florida is fine with Matheson continuing his maturation process in college – especially with such a top-notch program as Boston College. Matheson will join the defending national champion Eagles as a freshman in the fall.

The Panthers have been impressed with Matheson so far and have compared his skating style and puck moving ability to current Florida defenseman Brian Campbell. Matheson, however, is a long way away from cracking the roster.

“He is not only a good player, but a real character guy,'' said Brian Skrudland, the Panthers' director of player development. “There have been no surprises with this guy. He can skate, has the heart and the desire. He knows what he wants. He's going to Boston College and why not? He's excited and we're excited for him. We're looking forward to seeing this guy in the future.''

A native of Quebec, Matheson speaks both French and English fluently – and says he will study Spanish at Boston College. The Panthers have been impressed not only with his intellect, but his attitude toward the game.

Matheson played in the U.S. Hockey League last year in Dubuque, Iowa, scoring 11 goals with 16 assists in 53 games. In five postseason games for the Fighting Saints, Matheson scored a goal and assisted on five others.

“What I love is he is just a year removed from midget hockey,'' said Scott Luce, the Panthers' director of amateur scouting.

“He's going to get exponentially better just by default when he goes to Boston College. It would have been very easy for him to stay in the Quebec league but he went to Dubuque. He's a mature guy who is focused and determined. He went against the grain as compared to players from Quebec. He lived on a farm outside of town. He's a character guy we like.''

Matheson spent much of Wednesday on the beach with his new Florida teammates. Many of them will be back later this summer for a rookie camp and tournament, although he will not because he'll be in classes by then.

If Matheson wants to make his mark early on, he needs to do so now.

The Panthers camp ends Friday; there will be scrimmages on Thursday and Friday starting at 9 a.m. at the Coral Springs Iceplex. Admission is free.

“After my meeting at the draft, I was confident they liked me,'' Matheson said. “But you never know until your name is called.''




July 03, 2012

WILL PANTHERS GET THEIR GOPHER?: Nick Bjugstad to Make Decision (U-Minnesota or NHL Contract) Soon

CaddyshackBY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

Nick Bjugstad has a pretty big decision to make. He promises not to make anyone wait too long on what it is.

Bjugstad, a first round draft pick by the Panthers, can either return to the University of Minnesota for his junior year or turn pro and battle for an NHL roster spot in Florida.

“It's going to be a tough one,'' Bjugstad said after the second day of the Panthers prospect camp on Tuesday.

Bjug2“There are pros and cons to both sides. I should probably just write them down on a sheet of paper and add everything up.''

The Panthers say they won't try and sway Bjugstad one way or another.

“It's up to him,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. “Whatever he decides to do. If he wants to turn pro and fight for a roster spot, we'll go forward. If he wants to go back to school then we'll let him do that. We never tell kids to play in junior or to leave school. Let the kids do what they want to do. They'll tell you when they are ready.''

It does seem apparent that Florida would like to see Bjugstad1the 6-6 center in training camp, however, something that won't happen if he returns to play for the Gophers in the fall.

“He had a great year but he's disappointed they didn't win a national championship,'' Tallon said. “He's 6-6, 220 right now so he'll play at 6-6, 240 – maybe more. Guys like that are hard to find. We looking for offense and top centermen and there aren't many around. The ones that are, are expensive. We're excited about his future.''

On one hand, Bjugstad would like to help Minnesota return to the Frozen Four and try and help the school win its eighth national title. “We have a lot of good players coming in and a lot returning,'' he said.

Bjugstad is also on track to get his degree in business marketing education next year.

Bjugstad helped lead the Gophers to Tampa last season, scoring 25 goals with 17 assists in 40 games. The Gophers lost in the semifinals to Boston College 6-1, a defeat that left a bad taste.

In Florida, Bjugstad has a chance to play in the NHL as early as October. Tallon and coach Kevin Dineen have said two or three of Florida's young players could be on the roster to start the season.

Bjugstad, with his size and skill, would be a strong candidate to be one of those. “He doesn't look like he's missed many meals,'' Dineen joked.

Bjugstad“I wish I knew what he was going to do, but I don't,'' said Kyle Rau, Bjugstad's teammate at Minnesota and fellow Florida prospect who had one more point than Bjugstad did last season.

“Obviously I want him to stay where I'm at, but I want the best for him. I haven't mentioned it. He has to make this decision. It's obviously his dream to play in the NHL – it's all of our dream.''

Bjugstad has been a player Florida has been high on since it drafted him 19th overall in Los Angeles. Bjugstad was Minnesota's prep Mr. Hockey during his senior year after he took accelerated courses and graduated high school in three years instead of four.

As a highly-touted freshman at Minnesota, Bjugstad struggled early on as he had mononucleosis and played a lot on the wing. The Gophers didn't have much of a season that year, adding to Bjugstad's disappointment. He ended with eight goals and 17 points in 29 games as Minnesota finished 16-14-6 with a losing record at home.

Last year, however, was big for Bjugstad and Minnesota as both bounced back. Bjugstad was strong from the start centering a line that included Rau – drafted by Florida in 2011 after he, too, won Minnesota's Mr. Hockey award – and helped Minnesota to a 28-14-1 record and a berth in the Frozen Four.

As much as Bjugstad wants to return to Minneapolis and help Minnesota make a run to this year's finals in Pittsburgh, playing professionally is a huge temptation.

Bjugstad said he is relying on the advice of friends and family – including uncle Scott Bjugstad who spent eight seasons in the NHL with the North Stars, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.

Bjugstad said he will make it in the coming days – most likely before leaving South Florida. It wouldn't be fair to Minnesota, he said, to wait before training camp before making the decision. If he were to leave, the Gophers would have to find someone to take his spot on the roster.

“It won't be that long,'' Bjugstad said.

() The Panthers prospects will not hold practice on Wednesday but plan on celebrating the Fourth of July at Fort Lauderdale beach.

The two split squads will scrimmage on Thursday. The prospect camp will hold two more sessions on Thursday and Friday with both starting at 9 a.m. at the Coral Springs Iceplex. Admission is free.




July 02, 2012

THE KID IS ALRIGHT: Jonathan Huberdeau to Make Moves with Panthers ... News and Notes from Prospect Camp

Huberdeau2BY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

It was very fitting Jonathan Huberdeau was one of the young players to model the Panthers new practice jerseys on Monday.

After all, it looks like he's going to be wearing it come October – and beyond.

Huberdeau, the third overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, is well on his way to being part of the Panthers this coming season.

General manager Dale Tallon said Huberdeau didn't have anything left to prove on the junior level at a press conference held following the opening day of Florida's week-long development camp in Coral Springs.

Huberdeau“Two or three of our kids will be in the lineup – Huberdeau can score,'' Tallon said, adding that Huberdeau could help on Florida's power play this season.

“Now is the time to get him to the next level. We have to improve his overall strength, timing and get him playing with bigger, stronger men. If he plays another year in junior, that's really not going to help his progress.''

Tallon and coach Kevin Dineen both said Huberdeau played well enough at his previous training camp to make the Panthers last season. Huberdeau was sent back to his junior team in Quebec, however, to mature a little more. It appears the Panthers are happy with the results.

Defenseman Erik Gudbranson followed a similar path in the 2010-11 season and had a strong rookie campaign with Florida last year.

“Last year doesn't matter, I have to get off to a good start here now,'' said Huberdeau, who scored 73 goals with 177 points in 104 games over the past two seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs.

“I want to make the team this year and I'm going to do everything I can to do so. I want to get bigger and stronger before I come to camp. I want to play here.''

Huberdeau led the Panthers in goals last preseason as he was the only player to appear in every game.

“I learned a lot from the veterans last year,'' he said. “Just making the team is my goal right now, it's not about playing with anyone. I want to play here. I don't want to go back to junior.''

Nick Bjugstad, if he decides to leave the University of Minnesota, and Quinton Howden could also fight for a roster spot come training camp.

“He has vision that is special and you see that come along once in a blue moon,'' Brian Skrudland, the Panthers' director of player development, said of Huberdeau.

“We don't think there's a limit. The capabilities he showed last year in training camp, he's so unassuming, you watch and say 'wow.' He plays against bigger players and is up for the challenge.''


Garrison5Although the Panthers were disappointed to lose defenseman Jason Garrison in free agency to Vancouver, both Tallon and Dineen sounded happy that Garrison was able to land such a lucrative deal in his hometown.

Garrison, who had a career-high 16 goals last year, signed a six-year deal worth an average of $4.6 million.

“What would you do to get a contract like that,'' Tallon asked. “Congratulations to him. He's a class kid who deserves everything he gets. I wish him all the best in Vancouver. This is a business. You don't get many kicks at the can in free agency.''

() Tallon said he was “willing to listen to anything [Vancouver] has to offer” when asked about the negotiations regarding a possible trade for goalie Roberto Luongo.

Tallon said the Canucks were “in the driver's seat” and added he was happy with Florida's current goaltending situation.

() Gudbranson was expected to attend camp but Tallon says he got some sort of infection at home in Canada and cannot fly. The Panthers say Gudbranson will miss the entire camp.

Howden, the 25th overall pick in 2010, also has an infection but traveled and could participate sometime this week.

() Dineen said Florida's entire coaching staff will return next season with assistant coach Gord Murphy, Dineenbenchgoalie coach Robb Tallas and strength coach Craig Slaunwhite – all hired by former coach Pete DeBoer – signing two-year contracts.

Assistant coach Craig Ramsay signed a three-year deal last summer.

So now Dineen and his entire staff are signed through the 2013-14 season.

() The development camp continues Tuesday starting at 9 a.m. and running for approximately two hours at the Coral Springs Iceplex. Admission is free.

() The Panthers will wear a JetBlue patch on their Jetbluepatchpractice jerseys starting this coming season as the team renewed their sponsorship deal with the airline.

The team's training facility will also be named after the carrier.  


OnFrozenPhone: Dale Tallon Talks at Panthers Camp

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon talks about a number of things after the opening day of development camp in Coral Springs -- including the future of prospects such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida's goaltending situation and the free agent moves made the day before.



OnFrozenPhone: Jonathan Huberdeau Talks at Panthers Camp

OnFrozenPhone: Gophers C Nick Bjugstad Talks at Panthers Camp

July 01, 2012

OnFrozenPhone: Jason Garrison Before Leaving the Panthers

Here's Jason Garrison speaking a few days after the Panthers ended their season with a Game 7 loss to the Devils.

Sorry, phone ran out of memory at the end of that interview.


GARRISON HEADS HOME: Panthers Lose Jason Garrison to Florida Canucks

Garrison4BY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Jason Garrison left the Florida Panthers on Sunday, signing a six-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

The contract, which is worth an average of $4.6 million per season, is said to be lower than money he was offered from other teams.

TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted that Garrison “left money on the table” and was offered similar money that Calgary signed former (short-lived) teammate Dennis Wideman to last week.

The Panthers will not disclose their negotiations with Garrison, but it's thought Florida offered $4 million at either three or four years. This may or not be true, just numbers I have heard.

Garrison, from White Rock, B.C., basically took comparable money (when taxes are taken into consideration) to go back home. With the additional years, however, Garrison has more security.

Don't forget that in 2010, Garrison took less money from Dale Tallon and the Panthers for a two-year deal that was a guaranteed one-way deal.

It worked out for the Panthers; Garrison played well for Florida in those two seasons – especially this year.

Garrison came into the season with a grand total of seven goals in his first two NHL seasons. This time around, he put 16 pucks into the net and became a fan favorite.

Garrison3Some fans have taken to social media to blast Garrison for leaving, many comparing him to Jay Bouwmeester.

Two very different situations.

Bouwmeester was never coming back to the Panthers regardless of the payday (one he got in Calgary – also close to his hometown of Edmonton yet not as close as Garrison).

Bouwmeester told the Panthers 18 months before he was due to become a free agent that he probably wasn't coming back – and gave the team a list of teams they should trade him to.

It was the Panthers who decided they were better off with Bouwmeester for that time and didn't trade him.

Florida knew he was going to leave and didn't trade him when he had his highest value.

Making the playoffs at the time, the Panthers reasoned, was more important. That's on the Panthers, not Bouwmeester. He just didn't dig South Florida and wasn't real keen on seeing if the franchise could turn itself around.

By all indications, it has. Bouwmeester couldn't be sure.

Garrison, as far as I know, never told the Panthers he wouldn't be coming back and, as far as I can tell, negotiated in good faith.

The Panthers thought they had a chance at signing Garrison but were going to stick to their guns and not let the market dictate what they thought Garrison was worth.

Basically, the Panthers decided not to go crazy in order to keep him. And he eventually took less money that he could have recieved elsewhere – I know it's relative – to go back to his hometown.

Garrison was a good player for the Panthers during his time here and was a good teammate. Never heard a bad word said about him – from anyone. He played well during his contract, and when it was up, made a life-altering decision and moved on.

The Panthers got everything they could have asked for out of Jason Garrison in his time here.

"We wanted size, we wanted another guy who can shoot the puck on the power play and we wanted character and he fit all of those criteria," general manager Mike Gillis told the Vancouver Sun.

"He is from Vancouver so he had a real desire to play here, which he articulated to us. . .we also wanted to get a little younger and keep within our salary parameters and we're fortunate to have young man Garrywho wanted to come back to Vancouver, wanted to play for us and was prepared to work with us on salary structure to get it done."

And so the Vancouver Panthers pick up another member as Garrison joins the likes of Roberto Luongo (for now), David Booth and Keith Ballard with the Canucks.

That number could rise in the coming weeks if Florida swings a deal for Luongo and sends a few more Panthers west.

The two teams meet up Nov. 13 in Vancouver. Good tickets still available. OK, that last part wasn't true.





CATS MAKE MOVES: Panthers Sign Scott Clemmensen, George Parros and Filip Kuba for Two Years Each ... Jason Garrison Gone to Canucks

ClemBY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

The Panthers weren't as busy at the onset of the free agency market opening on Sunday afternoon as they were last season – although no one expected them to be.

Things were slow for much of the day as the biggest free agents on the market, not including Florida's Jason Garrison, remain out there going into Day 2 on Monday.

The Panthers did make some moves. Florida signed goalie Scott Clemmensen to a two-year contract before he could become an unrestricted free agent at noon. The Panthers also added veteran defenseman Filip Kuba and bottom six forward George Parros.

Florida didn't improve its offense on Sunday, something general manager Dale Tallon said he hopes to address as the summer rolls on – and perhaps as early as Monday.

Once top free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise sign, the market should open up.

“We made solid hockey moves with guys who want to come here,'' said Tallon, who signed an unprecedented eight players on the first day of free agency last summer.

“We're still not done, have a few things in the fryer right now and are waiting for some guys to get back to us. This is a work in progress. We're moving forward.''

GarrisonnycFlorida replaced Garrison by signing Kuba to a two-year deal worth $8 million. It's believed the Panthers were offering Garrison – a free agent who scored a career-high 16 goals last season – around $4 million per season.

Garrison, from British Columbia, signed a six-year deal with Vancouver worth an average of $4.6 million per season.

“Based on the numbers they are at and the numbers we are at, we are happy with Filip,'' Tallon said of Garrison. “We kept our solid defense in place with his acquisition.''

Kuba, 35, was drafted by the Panthers in 1995 and played in 18 games for Florida from 1998-99. He's Kubaplayed in 776 since for Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Ottawa. Last year, paired with Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, Kuba had 32 points off six goals and was a team-best plus-26 in 73 games.

Clemmensen, who turns 35 this month, just completed a three-year deal with the Panthers. Financial terms were not available; Clemmensen made $1.5 million last season on a contract that averaged $1.2 million.

Florida has both of last year's goalies under contract as Jose Theodore is signed for one more season. The Panthers are said to still be in the running for Vancouver's Roberto Luongo – Florida's goalie from 2000-06 who still lives in Parkland – and reportedly inquired about New Jersey's Martin Brodeur.

“It's been fun, I've really enjoyed my time in South Clemm3Florida,'' said Clemmensen, who has made 70 of his 124 career starts with the Panthers. “I want to be a Panther. I'm very excited about it. Florida was on the top of my destination list. Talks were always positive. It's just nice to get it done.''

BradleyhurtThe Panthers' final big move of Sunday was signing Parros away from Anaheim to replace Matt Bradley. Florida officially bought out Bradley's final year on Saturday.

Bradley suffered a season-ending concussion in February, coincidentally, after missing on a full-speed check of Parros and going head-first into the stanchion by the Panthers bench.

Parros2Parros is known for his thick mustache (which has its own Facebook page) and tough play. He said he saw how Florida coach Kevin Dineen used players such as Krys Barch and Bradley last season and figured he will get more playing time with the Panthers.

“They had a great season last year and have great management. I'm excited to be a part of it,'' said Parros, who played in just 46 games last year because of various injuries and being scratched for 11 of Anaheim's final 16 games.

“Being out west for so long, you don't see that division a whole lot. But this past year, Florida impressed a lot of people. They were on everyone's radar. We all saw that. The guys out west took notice.''

Although Florida kept Clemmensen around, it lost out on Mikael Samuelsson.

SamuelssoncupThe Panthers acquired Samuelsson in the David Booth deal with Vancouver last October; Samuelsson missed a big chunk of the season with various injuries (sports hernia, concussion) but played strong down the stretch and was a key veteran leader during the postseason.

The Panthers made an offer to Samuelsson to stay, yet Sunday afternoon, he returned to Detroit – where he won the Cup in 2008 – and signed a two-year deal worth $6 million. “We tried and were in the mix,'' Tallon said.

() Florida will open its week-long developmental camp Monday afternoon at the Coral Springs Iceplex. The first group will hit the ice at 1:30 p.m. with the second going on at 2:30. Admission is free.

() The Panthers also announced the signing of Greg Rallo and Dov Grumet-Morris to two-way deals. They'll be in San Antonio.


Who: Filip Kuba, defenseman

Age, hometown: 35; Ostrava, Czech Republic

Experience (past teams): 13 seasons (Florida, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Ottawa)

Scouting report: Kuba is a smooth skating defenseman who had a strong offensive season last year. Kuba is consistent and should be a top-four guy in Florida.

Who: George Parros, left wing

Age, hometown: 32; Washington, Pa.

Experience (past teams): 7 seasons (Los Angeles, Anaheim)

Scouting report: At 6-5 and 230 pounds, Parros is big, strong and intimidating. Parros isn't much of an offensive threat, but he's not a liability either.