When Dale Tallon took the job as general manager for the Florida Panthers last summer, he promised that things would change, and that the Panthers were going to be rebuilt, retooled, and be made into a contender. While we aren’t guaranteed anything based on yesterday’s flurry of signings one thing is for sure…..we finally after a years of frustration have a hockey club. With players that can play.
The Florida Panthers gave new meaning to the phrase “Free Agent Frenzy” yesterday as they signed seven players and traded for another, in what can be called a total revamping of the roster. When the day kicked off at noon, things seemed to move along rather slowly for the first few minutes all around. Then sometime after 12:30 the word came that the Panthers had signed goaltender Jose Theodore, a signing that was predicted by yours truly. And thus the Tomas Vokoun era had come to an end. Potentially. More on that story line later, but the Panthers felt they needed to do something quick as Vokoun and his agent turned down the Panthers offer the day before. Theodore was signed for two years at $1.5 million per. A very decent contract.
Then the crazyness began. Scottie Upshall a gritty, hard working guy with a lot of character who is happy to be here signed a four year deal. He could possibly end up as the number one right winger. That was another signing that I had predicted. Ed Jovanovski an original Panther has been brought back to bolster and mentor the defence. All of you who kept your Jovo sweaters can now wear them again! Jovo was signed to a four year deal and while I don’t really like the length or the money, I’ll get used to it, and if he stays healthy, it will be worth it. I must admit, that one came out of left field. Marcel Goc a gritty defensive centerman from the Nashville Predators was the next signing. A player that’s good on faceoffs, will be good on the PK, and will most likely be the third line center, brings a strong work ethic to Florida. Playing under Barry Trotz in Nashville, his character is one that we don’t have to worry about. If he’s healthy, which has been a problem in the past, we’ll be pleased.
Late in the afternoon Tomas Fleischman, most recently of the Colorado Avalanche was inked to a four year deal. Again, another hard working player. Nicknamed Flash, Tomas put up some good numbers as a member of the Avalanche, getting 21 points in 22 games for Colorado with his confidence sky rocketing. While he never scored 30 goals in his NHL career, there’s the possibility that with an opportunity to play on the number one line, he might. Then a trade was announced, and it was only a matter of time before Kris Versteeg ended up a Panther. Rumored on draft day to be coming here, it finally materialized. Two second round picks for Versteeg. Once again, a steal by Tallon, who stole Versteeg from Boston three years ago for a player that is buried in the minors, Versteeg is fun, fast and exciting. He’ll get you about 25 goals too.
And just when you thought things were done, George Richards the Miami Herald writer that covers the Panthers tweeted that another deal was on it’s way. As I slowly looked at the list of potential free agents still left I wondered who it would be. We didn’t have to go very far up the state line as Sean Bergenheim from the Tampa Bay Lightning was inked to a four year deal. Sean had only 29 points last season, but had a hell of a playoff run scoring nine goals for the Lightning. This contract scares me the most out of all of them just for the money factor, but listen, we need to spend. We all knew we would over pay. His defence is solid and having him on the third line, potentially with a little second line duty and you have a very versatile forward. Mixed in all this was a minor signing of defenceman Nolan Yonkman who will most likely end up in the AHL.
All in all a dizzying day and night, but a successful one if I might say so myself. The jealous comments have already begun. What are the Panthers doing, why are they giving away so much money, they aren’t any better than last year, blah, blah, blah. This moves and signings are all done to improve what has been a horrible team for the last few seasons. Character players that are hard working and gritty with some offensive upside. I’m not making any promises or guaranteeing anything, but if you don’t think this team is better right now than any team we’ve had in the last five years, you’re drunk. As for the team chemistry issue, take one look at the players and you’ll see a couple common themes, playoff experience, fun, and they wanted to be here. The rest will all fall into place.
We’ll be breaking down each acquisition over the next two days, so make sure that you check back often. In the meantime, leave us some comments, here or on our facebook page. Tell us what you think, and how you feel. Excited? You better be.
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