Skip to main content

Panthers busy as free agency period opens, sign 7 veterans and trade for another

MIAMI - 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 defenceman 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 defenceman 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 defencemen 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."


Connor McDavid

NHL Three Stars: McDavid, Kaprizov and Kochetkov Show Off

Adam Proteau explains why Connor McDavid, Kirill Kaprizov and Pyotr Kochetkov had the best performances of the week.

Matt Murray

It Looks Like the Maple Leafs Made the Right Bet in Goal – For Now

Evaluating goaltenders is a tricky task. They're very unpredictable. But Mike Stephens breaks down the stats between Toronto's tandem this year and the last.

Luke Schenn

'It's an Honor': Canucks' Luke Schenn Sets NHL D-Man Hits Record

Luke Schenn set the NHL hits record among defensemen, first tracked in 2005-06, with a check on his former teammate as the Vancouver Canucks rallied to beat the Arizona Coyotes.