SUNRISE, Fla. – Scott Clemmensen watched the direction of the Florida Panthers change with a roster overhaul last summer. And because he believes better days are ahead, he’s not leaving anytime soon.
Clemmensen and Florida agreed on a two-year extension, the first move the team announced Sunday when the NHL’s free agent window opened. The Panthers also announced two-year contracts with defenceman Filip Kuba—a Florida draft pick in 1995—and right wing George Parros, the enforcer who played for Anaheim when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
“I said it at the end of the year and it still holds true today and last week and four months ago,” Clemmensen said. “I want to be a Panther. I’m just glad we were able to reach a deal and I’m able to remain a Panther. I’m very excited about it.”
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said the team is still aiming to add offence, but was satisfied with Sunday’s work.
“They are hockey moves, solid hockey moves with guys that wanted to come here,” Tallon said. “We solidified our goaltending and our defence and added some grit and toughness to our front line and protected a couple of spots for some of our young guys to come in and make our club. We’re still not done. We still have a few things in the fryer right now.”
Clemmensen was 14-6-6 in 30 regular-season appearances last season for the Southeast Division champions. He went 1-2 with a 2.35 goals-against average in the playoffs against New Jersey, essentially splitting time in that series with Jose Theodore, who is under contract for one more season but may not be back.
Vancouver is willing to trade goaltender Roberto Luongo—a former Panther who still has many ties to South Florida, along with 10 years left on his contract. The Luongo-to-Florida buzz has been growing steadily for weeks, although Clemmensen said Sunday that he enjoyed working with Theodore this past season when the Panthers snapped a 12-year post-season drought and won their first division title.
“If things change, then obviously you adjust accordingly,” Clemmensen said. “But from my side, and my point of view as of right now, I’m not really going to worry about what trades or signings might or might not happen. You play the hand that you’re dealt and you play to the best of your ability and you go forward from there.”
Kuba was an eighth-round pick by the Panthers 17 years ago and last played for the Panthers on Jan. 6, 2000. He was traded to Calgary in March 2000, then claimed in the expansion draft by Minnesota three months later. Kuba played five seasons with the Wild, two more with Tampa Bay and the last four with Ottawa.
He has 69 goals and 254 assists in 792 NHL games.
“Filip is an experienced player who adds further depth to our blue line,” Tallon said. “He is a big, strong and responsible, shutdown defenceman.”
Kuba’s signing indicated that defenceman Jason Garrison, who had 16 goals and 17 assists for Florida last season, would not be back with the Panthers. Hours later, that was confirmed when Vancouver announced it signed Garrison, a British Columbia native, to a six-year deal.
Parros, former Princeton player, has 950 penalty minutes in 413 NHL games, all but 57 of those with the Ducks. Parros—probably best known for his dark, distinctive moustache—wrote on Twitter that he leaves Anaheim with “a heavy heart.”
Parros said the Panthers’ return to the playoffs last season made him and plenty of other players around the league see Florida differently.
“Florida impressed a lot of people and was on everyone’s radar,” Parros said. “I think we all saw that. It seems like that they’ve got a good young team together.”
Tallon said the reception he’s been getting from free agents have been positive for that reason.
“People are starting to look at us and we’ve been contacted by a lot of top players,” Tallon said. “We’re excited about our future.”
Also Sunday, the Panthers announced one-year, two-way contracts with centre Greg Rallo and goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris—who both played for Florida’s AHL club in San Antonio last season—as well as right wing Jon Rheault.