Today’s music choice on New Releases Thursday is Back Down South by Kings of Leon.
Pretty odd looking statement isn’t? Well you better get used to it as not only the free agent players that have been signed recently have expressed a desire to be here, but Panther forward Mike Santorelli an restricted free agent avoided arbitration to be here as well. Santorelli wants to be part of the resurgence that has begun in Florida and was signed yesterday to a one way-two year deal to remain a Florida Panther.
Mike’s first full NHL season this past year saw him become a fan favourite with his speed, energy, and balanced play as he impressed the management of the Panthers who rewarded him with his deal and thus avoiding arbitration. You can’t help but like Mike who’s bright personality was and will be a positive influence in the dressing room. Here’s what he had to say yesterday after his signing was announced:
“Florida is a great spot,” Santorelli said. “I’m excited to come back. I knew it would get done, very happy it did. .-.-. The team looks great with all the additions. All the players are high class in this league. I’m excited about being a part of it. All the players we got are high-skilled, great hockey players. I’m looking forward to learning from them.”
Santorelli who had a very impressive training camp last season earned a spot on the Panther roster and was easily slotted in as the teams second line center. After a bit of a slow start, Mike finally settled in and scored 20 times and had 21 assists playing in all 82 games. He’s a bit streaky, but with experience and a full regular season under his belt, that hopefully will settle down. He was acquired last season in a trade with Nashville, and at the time had a two way deal, and it wasn’t known for sure if he’d make the team. Fortunately his hard work paid off and the Panthers benefited from his play. As the season progressed Santorelli earned time on the power play, which we all know was at the bottom of the league, and scored five of his 20 goals with the man advantage.
While this signing shows confidence in the young forward, he’ll have some stiff competition for ice time this coming season. Newcomers Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischman, Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Kopecky will compete with Santorelli, Evgeny Dadonov, David Booth and Stephen Weiss for top six minutes. That’s nine players for six spots which will create a very interesting training camp…..one that hasn’t had this much buzz since the year after the lockout.
It’s going to be a much different camp here than what we’ve been used to, as in the past players were competing for jobs with little concern for where they played. Now the emphasis and philosophy for these nine will have a different twist and for once, not only is your job on the line, but where your slotted as well. Players wanting to play in Florida is a mindset that’s difficult for many to comprehend. But when Brian Campbell waived his no trade clause to come here, and not Columbus, the trail of players have followed. Part of it has to do with how well liked Dale Tallon is, and part of it has to do with what Dale Tallon is doing. Following through on his blueprint to resurrect a franchise that has been the butt of many jokes for way too long. With the roster as it is now, there really aren’t too many spots up for grabs and players like Jack Skille, Shaw Matthias, and Ryan Carter could be on the outside looking in. As much as we’ve liked some of these players, it’s about time that players not only have to earn their place on the roster, but truly have to earn their position and ice time.
Hearing that Santorelli is grateful to be here is refreshing. He’s a nice kid and his two year deal is well deserved. Virtually the lone bright spot last season, Santorelli earned himself a return with his performance. But just as he stepped up last season to make the team, Mike now has to go to another level to keep his status as a top six forward. Nothing will be given to anyone this year. Being surrounded by better players all competing for the same thing is something that we can all be grateful for.
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