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Putting Down Roots

Kris Versteeg signs long term deal to stay in South Florida.

Monday, 07.23.2012 / 4:30 PM ET / News
By Glenn Odebralski  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Putting Down Roots
Kris Versteeg

Cats Sign Versteeg For Four

John Krieder - NHL.com Staff Writer
Kris Versteeg can finally look forward to spending some time in the same place.

Other Links:
Official Release
Versteeg Conference Call
Tallon Conference Call
Versteeg Highlights
Versteeg Bio

Kris Versteeg wanted to be a Panther for the foreseeable future. His GM, Dale Tallon wanted the same thing.

Monday it finally came to fruition as the Cats officially inked the winger to a four-year deal just before the two sides were to head to an arbitration hearing in Toronto. That means that the Lethbridge, Alberta native will be able to put down roots for possibly the first time in his professional career.

It's a welcome change for the winger who spent the majority of his first season with the Cats on the top line with Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann.

"It feels pretty good. It's been a bit of a whirlwind the last two years but right now security was the number one thing for me. To play in Florida was a number one thing." said Versteeg after agreeing to a contract over the weekend. "I mean it all came down to wanting to be in Florida and wanting to play here."

Security. It's knowing he'll be in one place for a long time after playing on four different teams in a two year span. That included stops in Chicago, Toronto and Philadelphia before finally being acquired by Tallon last July for draft picks.

"I've known Kris for a while and I know it's important for him to have security and have a place to call home,” said Tallon. “He wants to stay with one franchise and finish his career here.”

For what seemed like a slam dunk kind of deal since the two sides wanted the talented winger in South Florida, it came awfully close to heading to arbitration. But sometimes that's just the nature of the beast.

"It's something that's been talked about for a long time," said Versteeg who has posted at least 20 goals in the last four seasons despite all the moving. "It's funny how long it took to get done but it's two sides that want a fair deal and I think we both got a fair deal."

"Sometimes you keep negotiating until the bitter end. You can see that it happens a lot," said Tallon. "You really don't want to go to arbitration and we decided we really didn't want to. Certainly it made sense for both sides and that's how it goes."

"We're both excited about what the future of the franchise can bring," added Versteeg. "Obviously thanking Cliff and all of the ownership for getting behind them to get this deal done too and I'm excited."

Now that a deal is finally done, Versteeg can focus on building off a great first season with Florida. The 26-year old posted career highs in both goals (23) and points (54) despite playing in just 71 games.

"He's still a young guy," said Tallon. "He had a career year last year despite some nagging little injuries. His ceiling is quite high. He has a lot of opportunities to get better and grow as a player on and off the ice.

"I think he has a tremendous upside based on his ability and his skill, his desire to remain and be a Florida Panther."

And to think that he posted those career highs despite playing through various injuries throughout the campaign. He missed time with a hip injury and played most of the end of the season and the first round against New Jersey not being 100%. Despite that, he recorded five points (three goals) against the Devils as Florida fell in seven games.

"It's obviously there and something that lingers in the back of your mind constantly," said Versteeg of the hip ailment. "You just have to go out and play your game. Near the playoffs we tried to shoot it up to help it out. I felt like near the end of the season I came back and it felt better. Obviously it helped. During the season it definitely gets on your mind but you don't want to say it effects you too much because you're a hockey player and you don't make excuses."

"He's a tough kid and he was in a lot of pain but he still played," said Tallon. "(He) gave it his best and played hard but he's 100% now. We're looking forward to him being healthier than he's ever been."

The winger said that he's right on track in terms of recovery time and figures to hit the ice around mid-August. There he'll be training "pain free" and looking to get stronger and help the Panthers defend their Southeast Division title.

In fact, both the winger and the GM that first acquired the young player back in their Chicago days before doing it again in Florida have high goals for not just the upcoming year but beyond.

"I've loved my time here," said Versteeg. "I'm excited to get going again and try to win a Stanley Cup with the Florida Panthers."

"We want people that want to be Panthers. It's very important," said Tallon. "You don't want to sign people to long term deals that are kind of iffy that they don't want to be here or they're doubtful that they want to be Panthers. Kris all along said that he wanted to be here and wants to be here for a long time."

Now with the business all sorted out, the next big question that now looms; where should the winger put down those roots.

"I definitely am going to be looking around. I'm not sure where it's going to be," said Versteeg on where he wants to buy a house in South Florida. "I'm going to come down and talk to my real estate agent about where we're going to look for a house.

"Obviously hopefully it stays standing there for a while."


1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54


J. Huberdeau 79 15 39 10 54
J. Jokinen 81 8 36 -2 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
A. Ekblad 81 12 27 12 39
B. Boyes 78 14 24 11 38
A. Barkov 71 16 20 -4 36
J. Hayes 72 19 16 -4 35
B. Campbell 82 3 24 4 27
B. Pirri 49 22 2 6 24
D. Bolland 53 6 17 4 23
R. Luongo 28 19 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 6 7 2 .892 3.01
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