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
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
”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
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
”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 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
”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
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.”