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Stressing Patience As Free Agency Opens

Panthers lock up Matthias, three others while saying goodbye to Weiss.

Friday, 07.5.2013 / 6:30 PM ET / News
By Glenn Odebralski  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Stressing Patience As Free Agency Opens
Center Shawn Matthias celebrates one of his career-high 14 goals last season while playing the New Jersey Devils. (Getty Images)

For Panthers GM Dale Tallon, it was all about taking the 2013 free agency period one day and one move at a time.

"We've got to be patient here. I said that we would be patient today and that we're not going to overpay and that we're going to chip away at this all summer," said Tallon on a conference call a couple of hours after the start of free agency. "We don't play a game until October so we've got time here to keep fixing and keep adding.

“We're not done yet."

The biggest move of the day was locking up center Shawn Matthias. The forward had a breakout year last season, led by his play in March. Matthias scored a career-high 14 goals, including 11 in the second last month of the season.

"A very good deal. He's improving and if he keeps improving, we've seen flashes of brilliance last year, now he's just got to get more consistent," said Tallon on signing Matthias to a two-year contract. "He's fairly young, big, can skate and he's going to fit into what we have got coming as far as size and speed, he fits into what the plan is."

Compared to the last contract Matthias signed just before camp started, the 25-year old was happy to get it done so he could focus on the upcoming season.

"I'm happy to get it out of the way. The last contract I did, it was two days before camp so it's nice to have it out of the way and now I can just focus on training and getting ready for the season," said Matthias. "It was nice to do the first contract signed in front of my parents so it was a pretty special moment for them and it was a lot of fun."

Signing Matthias was a priority for the Panthers, especially with the loss of the longest tenured Panther, Stephen Weiss. The franchise's all-time leader in games played (654) and assists (249) and second leading point producer (419) signed a five-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings Friday. Playing with the Panthers since being drafted fourth overall in the 2001 NHL Draft, Weiss will certainly be missed but Tallon and Matthias were happy for him.

"We just couldn't get it done," said Tallon. "It just didn't fit in. It's not very often you get into this position or you have a chance to be an unrestricted free agent and I don't blame Stephen one bit. I'm happy for him, I think he's much deserving; it just didn't work out for us. We just have to move on."

"Obviously everyone knows that Stephen and I are pretty close. I lived at his house for a couple of years," said Matthias. "He's a special guy. He's been with the team for so long and he really cared about the Panthers. I'm sure it's a tough day for him. I learned a lot from him."

"He was a classy guy. I've gotten to know him and I like him a lot and I'm happy for him," added Tallon. "You've got to take a shot when you get that opportunity. He has to think of his family and all of that and I ought to congratulate him on a great career here and wish him all the best."

Tallon tried to find a contract that would fit both parties, being mindful of what the Panthers have in the system as well as the budget that's in place. Fortunately for some of the young players, they'll get a chance to compete early on in their professional careers.

"We're going to go with our young guys," said Tallon. "That's been the plan all along and that's the way we're going to go.

"The (Aleksander) Barkov's and (Nick) Bjugstad's and (Drew) Shore's and (Vincent) Trocheck's. Those are the guys that are our future. That's what's going to have to get done here."

MORE CONTENT
TALLON CONFERENCE CALL
MATTHIAS CONFERENCE CALL

While it was a change in the longest tenured status (going from Weiss to Matthias), the Panthers did add some new faces as they signed forwards Joey Crabb and Jesse Winchester and defenseman Mike Mottau. Crabb, especially, will be given a chance to come in and play some minutes for the Panthers.

"He's going to play. Kill penalties, got skill, speed and he competes hard," said Tallon. "I'm trying to change the dynamic of our forth line for speed, more aggression. He's a good role player, good penalty killer, got high energy... He's a right winger with speed. He played in the World Championships two years ago for Team USA. I was real happy with the way he played. He understands his role. He does it very well."

The Panthers GM is confident in all three of the new skater's games as they will be very valuable during the season, feeling that Florida will be better prepared for injuries whenever they pop up.

"Last year we were injured and we didn't have a lot of guys that could come up and play and fill in so we're trying to correct that situation with the addition of Winchester, Mottau and Joey Crabb and (Bobby) Butler," said Tallon. "We've got guys that can come up and play valuable minutes for us when we're injured. Last year we didn't have enough depth to offset those injuries."

Those weren't the only moves as Florida traded enforcer George Parros to Montreal in exchange for LW Philippe Lefebvre and a 2014 seventh round pick. That followed up on Wednesday's buyout of defenseman Filip Kuba.

"We finished last, last year," said Tallon. "We brought in some players and they didn't quite work out. I'm trying to stir the pot here and get some pieces that fit and that's what we're doing."

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
7 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
8 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
9 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 49 16 21 11 37
J. Huberdeau 52 10 27 10 37
A. Barkov 42 16 19 13 35
J. Jokinen 52 10 25 12 35
V. Trocheck 52 17 16 4 33
R. Smith 52 16 15 11 31
B. Pirri 48 10 13 -4 23
A. Ekblad 48 10 12 21 22
B. Campbell 52 4 16 17 20
N. Bjugstad 37 9 8 -3 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 23 13 5 .930 2.13
A. Montoya 8 2 1 .931 1.93

 
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