Panthers get busy, sign 7 as free agency begins

The Florida Panthers began preparing last year for the beginning

of free agency and were one of the busiest teams in the NHL on

Friday.

General manager Dale Tallon created cap room by dealing away

veterans at last year’s trading deadline. That was the difficult

part. Friday was the fun side.

The signed seven veterans and acquired another in a trade.

Tallon said the moves provided not only a new-look roster, but a

better one.

”We’re committed to turning this around,” he said. ”It was

very painful last year to do what we had to do and now we want to

start to enjoy this process and see some success.”

Leading the list of free agent signings was five-time All-Star

defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who began his career in Florida after

being the first overall pick in the 1994 draft.

Also joining the Panthers was veteran goalie Jose Theodore, who

won the Hart and Vezina trophies while with the Montreal Canadiens

in 2001-02. The other free agents signed were forwards Tomas

Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergenheim and Marcel Goc, and

defenseman Nolan Yonkman.

Forward Kris Versteeg was acquired from Philadelphia for a

second- round pick in 2012 or 2013 along with a third-round choice

next year.

Jovanovski joins a corps of defensemen that was bolstered at the

draft by the trade for speedy Brian Campbell. Jovanovski spent his

first 3 1/2 seasons in Florida before being shipped to Vancouver in

the multiplayer trade involving Pavel Bure.

Jovanovski, who made three All-Star appearances with Vancouver

and two with Phoenix, left Florida as a player teeming with

potential. He returns as an established veteran.

”I’m excited to come back to Florida,” Jovanovski said. ”The

first years of my career were great. Then getting traded out of

there and to go somewhere else was tough on me and the family when

it happened.

”A lot of things worked out for the good while I was playing

elsewhere, but it’s good to be back in Florida. With the moves Dale

is making, the guys that they’re adding, it shows great promise for

the organization.”

The acquisition of Versteeg reunited Tallon with another player

he brought to Chicago and one who helped the Blackhawks win the

Stanley Cup in 2010. Versteeg scored 21 goals while playing for

Toronto and Philadelphia last season.

Upshall was a 22-goal scorer while splitting time between

Phoenix and Columbus. Fleischmann was limited to 45 games last year

because of a blood clot in his chest, but has been cleared to play.

He scored 23 goals for Washington two seasons ago.

Bergenheim scored 14 goals in 80 games with Tampa Bay last

season and shined in the playoffs when he had nine goals and 11

points in 16 games to help the Lightning reach the Eastern

Conference finals.

”I don’t think what we did today was add any type of a

superstar player, but I think that all of these players have the

ability to contribute offensively and make us a tough team to play

against,” said assistant GM Mike Santos. ”We’ll be able to roll

four lines and probably be able to score with all four lines.

That’s something we haven’t been able to do here in a long

time.”

Despite the flurry of activity on Friday, Tallon said the

reshaping of the Florida roster wasn’t done.

”We’ve got a lot of work to do still,” he said. ”We’re not

anywhere near where we need to be, but thank God we’re not where we

used to be.”