Going For Quality Over Quantity
A far cry from a year ago, Panthers add three regulars to a roster that won first Division championship in franchise history on Day 1 of Free Agency
|The Panthers added two "outsiders" to their main roster, signing forward George Parros and defenseman Filip Kuba (above) on the first day of free agency (Getty Images)
It’s amazing how much difference a year makes.
If one were looking for the Panthers to be as busy as they were last July 1st, then they would be surely disappointed. But thanks to last summer’s signing and trading frenzy, Florida didn’t have to be.
365 days following a day that saw the Panthers add eight new players to their roster (one via trade) on the first day of free agency, Florida wasn’t as busy in terms of quantity but focused on quality instead. The club resigned three of their own and dipped their feet into the free agency pool for another three once noon hit.
Three of the players signed will bring organizational depth and most likely play in San Antonio.
“They’re hockey moves,” said Panthers GM Dale Tallon wrapping up Day 1 of Free Agency. “Solid hockey moves with guys that wanted to come here. We solidified our goaltending and our defense and added some grit and toughness to our front line.”
With 16 players under contract already, Tallon was focused more on adding while leaving space for young players such as Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden to make the jump from juniors or other lower leagues.
“We’re trying to get better every day. Sticking to our blueprint and allowing an opportunity with a strong group of veteran guys to allow your young guys to fit in when they’re ready,” said Tallon.
The Panthers got the ball rolling just before noon hit as they re-signed goaltender Scott Clemmensen to a two-year deal and restocked some of the organizational depth in the resigning of center Greg Rallo and goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris to one-year deals.
It was really a no brainer to both parties in bringing back the popular netminder. Clemmensen had his best season with the franchise since signing a three-year deal back on July 1, 2009. He posted a 14-6-6 record with a .913 SV% and a 2.57 GAA in 30 games.
“I really enjoyed my time in Florida. I said it at the end of the year and it still holds true. I want to be a Panther,” said Clemmensen. “Florida was right at the top of my list…For me it was very important to go to a team that I want to be on.”
With the impending departure of Jason Garrison, who signed Sunday night in Vancouver, Florida took care of shoring up their blueline in bringing back a former Panther as they inked Filip Kuba to a two-year deal. Kuba, who recorded 32 points while playing with Ottawa this past season, was an eighth-round pick of the Panthers back in 1995 and spent his first two seasons with the franchise before playing for Minnesota and Tampa Bay before suiting up for the Senators.
“We’re happy with Filip,” said Tallon. “He’s a good player. He’s got a history with some of our guys…He’s a solid two-way player with a big shot from the point. We kept our solid defense in place with his acquisition.”
In what can be seen as the two-for day, the Panthers once again signed a player to a two-year contract, inking enforcer George Parros. The former Duck brings a lot of passion to South Florida and isn’t afraid to stick up for his teammates as he holds Anaheim’s record for penalty minutes with 812.
“The Panthers showed a lot of interest early on,” said Parros on a conference call following the signing. “They expressed a great desire to have a guy like me in the locker room. With the coaching situation and all the talks that I had with everyone, I had a chance to play and contribute.
They had a great season last year. I’m excited to be a part of that.”
“We figure we are going to add some young guys to our lineup and George has a history of being a real positive influence on those guys on and off the ice,” said Tallon. “He’s got good experience, a hard-nosed guy that works hard in practice and is a good model for our young guys and will really add some leadership in the locker room.”
Florida added a third forward to the organization as they signed Jon Rheault to a one-year contract.
What Tallon noticed about the day was that it was a far cry from years past. This year, it was the Panthers that were receiving the calls from players trying to come to South Florida.
“We got a lot of phone calls from a lot of different people at different positions and some big name players,” said Tallon. “We talked to a lot of people and it’s very positive. People are starting to look at us…We’re making this a relevant market place.”
The players that signed noticed the change in culture as well.
“Being out west for so long, you’re not around teams, especially in that division,” said Parros. “Certainly this past year I think Florida impressed a lot of people and was on everyone’s radar, given what they had done this year. We all saw that. It seems like they have a good young team together.”
“Last summer was a big step for this franchise in terms of what direction it is heading in,” said Clemmensen. “That’s something that myself and hopefully others see and understand that this team is committed to contending and it’s very exciting to see it and be a part of.”
And even though the Panthers came to agreement on contracts with three regulars, it doesn’t mean that they’re done in free agency. While still giving a chance for their young guns to make the team out of training camp, there’s always a possibility to add. Tallon is known for tinkering with his roster, whether it be July 1st or August 15th or even November 28th.
“We’re still not done yet. We have a long summer ahead of us. We’ll see what happens,” said Tallon.