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Florida frenzy: Panthers agree to terms with 6 new players quickly as free agency opens

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers got a little bit of everything Tuesday: Scoring, toughness, goaltending and someone whose fingerprints just happened to be on the Stanley Cup a couple weeks ago.

At day's end, it was $60 million spent on about six players. And that might be a small price to pay if the franchise's fortunes wind up turning around.

The Panthers wasted no time in free agency to get deals done, signing four forwards, a defenceman and a goaltender shortly after the NHL's off-season shopping season got officially underway. Centers Dave Bolland and Jussi Jokinen were the costliest additions, with Bolland getting a five-year deal worth $27.5 million and Jokinen agreeing to a four-year pact worth $16 million.

"Jussi is a talented player with great hockey sense who we are pleased to have signed," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. "He possesses goal-scoring ability and is very good in shootouts. He adds a leadership presence to our club and will be the perfect mentor for our younger players."

Jokinen had 21 goals and 36 assists for 57 points with Pittsburgh last season—which would have made him Florida's top scorer by a wide margin.

Bolland, who once was with the Chicago Blackhawks when Tallon was the GM there, played in just 23 games for Toronto this past season because of a severed tendon in his left ankle.

"Dave is a proven winner and we are pleased to welcome him to the Florida Panthers," Tallon said. "He is a smart, two-way player who competes hard every shift and adds to our depth at centre."

On Twitter, Bolland bid Toronto fans farewell while looking toward his future.

"It was an honour to play for the Leafs in front of some of the best fans in hockey," Bolland wrote. "Thank you Toronto. I'm excited about my future in Florida."

Willie Mitchell, a two-time Cup-winning defenceman with the Los Angeles Kings, signed a two-year, $8.5 million deal. Mitchell was a plus-10 in 18 post-season games with the Kings on their run to the Stanley Cup this past season.

"He is a high character, hardworking player who will be counted upon to help develop our younger defencemen both on and off the ice, Tallon said.

Left wing Shawn Thornton—a proven enforcer—comes to Florida from Boston, and was probably best known last season for two incidents that drew disciplinary action from the league. He was suspended 15 games for punching and injuring an unsuspecting Brooks Orpik of Pittsburgh on Dec. 7. And in the playoffs against Montreal, Thornton squirted water from the bench into the face shield of Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban.

Thornton agreed to a $2.4 million, two-year deal.

"He is a veteran, hardworking, physical player who brings tremendous leadership and toughness to our team," Tallon said.

Centre Derek MacKenzie got a three-year, $3.9 million deal from the Panthers. He has been in 307 NHL games and had been with Columbus since 2007. He's coming off a year where he had nine goals and nine assists in 71 games.

Perhaps the most intriguing move was signing goalie Al Montoya to a two-year, $2.1 million deal. Montoya played college hockey at Michigan and went 13-8-3 with a 2.30 goals-against average for Winnipeg last season, stopping 92 per cent of the shots he faced.

But he could have instant fans in South Florida. Montoya is the first Cuban-American to play in the NHL and speaks Spanish, which is always a plus in the Latin-rich Miami area. His mother came to the U.S. from Cuba in the 1960s.



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