It is finally done. Yesterday, Florida Panther fans were given some great news; the team announced that they have come to terms on a new deal with winger, Kris Versteeg. The contract is good for four years and is worth $17.4 million.
When the season came to an end last season, the Panthers knew that they had to do whatever it is they could in order to bring back Versteeg. Kris was definitely interested in coming back to Florida. Even though both of the sides wanted to come to an agreement, they were having trouble. The Panthers were continuously offering a smaller deal, while Versteeg wanted to finally get his big payday which he deserved. For Kris, the offers coming in were insulting and as a result he filed for arbitration. Thankfully, the two sides were finally able to come to a fair agreement before the arbitration settlement was set in.
Prior to last season the Panthers acquired Versteeg in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers received a second round pick in either the 2012 or 2013 NHL Draft (Panthers choice) and a third round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. The Panthers chose wanted the pick to be in the 2012 and so far the deal has worked out in Florida’s favor. Last season the Flyers decided to trade that pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defender, Pavel Kubina. In the 17 games that Kubina played in for Philadelphia last season, he scored only four points. Flip the number 17 around and you get 71, which is how many games Versteeg played last season in a Florida uniform. In his 71 games, Versteeg scored 54 points, which was a career best.
Coming off of a career year, it was important that Versteeg remained with the Panthers. When the new deal was announced, the Panthers management knew that they made the right decision by using the extra money on Versteeg.
After the contract was announced, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon had this to say, “Kris played an important role in our club’s success last season and we are pleased to have reached a long-term contract agreement with him.” Tallon also went onto say, “We look forward to his continued offensive production, as well as his off-ice contributions in the South Florida community.”
The Panthers aren’t the only side that is happy the deal was done. Versteeg, who spent most of his career as a journeyman, was ecstatic to return to Florida. “I think we both got a fair deal and we’re both excited about what the future of the franchise can be. I was confident we were going to get something done,”
For the Panthers, this offseason has been a quite one. The team hasn’t exactly been the aggressors they were last year in free agency. Although it wasn’t expected to be a big free agency for the team, fans thought they would have done a little bit more. Unfortunately, the Panthers lost their biggest offensive threat from the blue line, Jason Garrison. On July 1, 2012, Jason Garrison signed a six year deal with the Vancouver Canucks, worth $27.6 million dollars. Being one of my favorite players, I am happy for Garrison that he has the opportunity to return home to British Columbia with a big contract.
Since the Panthers had already lost a big offensive threat, they knew that they must turn all of their attention to either signing a big time offensive player or bringing back Versteeg. Ultimately, the Panthers began trying to negotiate a contract with Versteeg, which I believe was the right move. If the Panthers went in another direction and tried to sign Zach Parise, they would have had to give him a contract in the 100 million’s. If the Panthers were to spend 100 million dollars on someone, it better be Wayne Gretzky from the 80’s. I do not believe in spending that much money on a player as it is a tremendous gamble that can turn out to hurt your franchise down the road.
Signing Versteeg means a couple of things. For one, it saves up a lot of cap space as they do not have to pursue a higher valued player (contract wise). Second, it gives the Panthers a much need offensive threat. And third, the Panthers know that they are getting their money’s worth. With the contract issue now in the past, Versteeg can finally turn his attention to hockey and coming off of a career year, you can expect to see a much improved Versteeg coming into next season.
Last year, Versteeg’s offensive production was obviously a big reason as to why the Panthers were able to make it to the postseason. Even though he wasn’t 100 percent healthy last season, Versteeg was able to keep his numbers up. Recently, Versteeg underwent hip surgery to help correct a problem that has been bothering him for the better part of last season. Dale Tallon went onto say that Kris will indeed be 100 percent going into next season.
Today was a big day for the Panthers as they were able to re-sign a 26 year old winger, with a huge upside and tremendous offensive skills. If he can remain healthy, Versteeg will be a big part of this franchise for years to come.
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