Panthers Re-Sign RFA Dylan Olsen

On Monday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced the re-signing of RFA Dylan Olsen to a one-way, 2-year deal.

Olsen, 23, appeared in 44 games with the Panthers last season after being dealt to Florida from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Kris Versteeg. He recorded 12 points (3-9-12) during his first season as a member of the Panthers. Olsen recorded his first NHL goal this past season against Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.

The 6’2, 223 lb blue-liner is a native of Calgary, Alberta and was drafted by Chicago in the first round of the 2009 entry draft. The rugged defenseman has played 72 career NHL games, registering 13 points (3-10-13), 78 blocked shots, 159 hits and has averaged 14:14 minutes of time on ice.

 

 

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Rocco Grimaldi: “This is my job. I’m going to do whatever I can to do the best at my job”.

The Florida Panthers have wrapped up day 3 of the on-ice portion of this off-season’s development camp. With 34 players invited to the annual event, one individual with very little size has had no issues fitting in with sizable competition . Rocco Grimaldi, taken in the 2nd round of the 2011 NHL Entry draft, has put on a show for Panthers fans this week, showing that size doesn’t always matter.

Grimaldi, 21, signed an entry-level deal with the Panthers last month after spending his last two full-seasons at the University of North Dakota, where he compiled 77 points (31G-46A-77P) in 82 games.

After falling short of the Frozen Four three-seasons ago, North Daktota earned another shot this past year when Grimaldi notched his first NCAA hat trick, beating the University of Wisconsin in the process. Shortly after, Grimaldi and North Dakota downed Ferris State in a gripping double overtime final, which sent North Dakota into the Frozen Four, impressing the collegiate hockey world.

But no one has been more impressed with Grimaldi than Brian Skrudland, the Panthers director of player development.

“When I went to the University of North Dakota, and I sat in the crowd, I felt so proud that Rocco Grimaldi was a Panther because people are talking about him. They’re all talking about him, getting ready for warm-ups saying ‘Hey, watch this little guy! He’s going to light it up’. He never disappoints.”

As any young athlete with the dream of becoming a professional, Grimaldi understands the challenges of the profession he has chosen. With the six free agent signings the Panthers made this off-season, Grimaldi knows that it’s not going to be an easy road ahead, but is hopeful of his future as Panther.

“I like a challenge though”, Grimaldi admits. “I think that’s going to be good for me, and obviously they brought in some good guys. I’m excited for what the future has in store here. I think they’re going to do some good things here in the coming years. Hopefully I’ll be a part of it sooner than later.”

With a near complete roster, and forwards like Vincent Trocheck and Drew Shore fighting for a spot on the NHL lineup as well, Grimaldi knows his journey to the NHL has become more difficult.

“Obviously if playing in the NHL was easy, then everyone would play”, explained Grimaldi. “I knew it was going to be hard, but those are just the sacrifices you’re willing to make. If that means not being able to hang out with your friends for a night and training instead, then so be it. This is a business now. This is my job. I’m going to do whatever I can to do the best at my job”.

Though he continues to face challenges, this positive attitude is what makes Grimaldi an attractive commodity to Panthers faithful.

“He’s got a great attitude”, Skrudland said. “I think he’s matured as a person. He’s become a better teammate in the 3 years that I’ve had the opportunity to work with him. He’s a very attentive individual, smart, and caring individual to his teammates.”

Even with a loaded roster, Skrudland see’s no reason to believe that Rocco and the prospects attending camp don’t have a shot at cracking the line up come October.

“He’s going to fit in here great.” Skrudland said of Grimaldi. “You never know. He might just be that guy who says ‘You know what, Brendan Gallagher did it in Montreal, I’m coming in here, I’m not going to San Antonio (Rampage)’. But it’s for them (prospects) to decide”.

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Panthers Re-Sign Defenseman Erik Gudbranson

On Thursday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced the re-signing of RFA Erik Gudbranson to a 2-year deal.

From the Panthers press release:

“Erik is an important part of our young core of talented players who we are pleased to have signed,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon told the team’s website. “He is a big, strong and physical defenseman who is one of the building blocks for our team. We look forward to his continued development and his contributions to the South Florida community.”

Gudbranson, 22, is a former 3rd overall draft pick in the 2010 draft and kicked off Dale Tallon’s tenure as the general manager of the Panthers. The Orleans, Ontario native is coming off of a career-high 9 points (3G-6A-9P) and 114 penalty minutes.

The 6’5, 216lb Gudbranson, known for his efforts within the South Florida community, was recently awarded the Panthers Community Ambassador of the Year.

 

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Aleksander Barkov puts on a show at Development Camp

After Jonathan Drouin of the Tampa Bay Lightning was seen showing off his sweet moves during the Bolts prospect camp this past week, cross-state counterpart Aleksander Barkov, who went one pick ahead of Drouin in the 2013 NHL draft, gave fans a show of his own.

At the end of day 2 of Panthers development camp, the prospects had a little fun with shootout drills. Barkov was instructed to shoot twice, and boy he did not disappoint.

One-handed? No problem. I’d say he has pretty strong wrists.

Yeah. He’s good.

 

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Mike Kelly and Mark Morris join Gerard Gallant and John Madden behind the bench

Monday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced that they have hired two assistant coaches to join head coach Gerard Gallant and current assistant coach John Madden behind the Panthers bench. The new additions are Mike Kelly, former head coach and general manager of the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, and Mark Morris, former head coach of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.

Kelly 54, joins the Panthers coaching staff after spending four seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs as Gallant’s associate coach during Saint Johns infamous dynasty years. After Gallant left the QMJHL to join Michel Therrien and the Montreal Canadiens in 2012, Kelly was promoted to general manager and head coach of the Sea Dogs for one season before being relieved of his duties in 2013.

Before joining the Sea Dogs in 2009, Kelly had already gotten a taste of the pro leagues, where he was an assistant coach for both the Mantioba Moose of the AHL and Vancouver Canucks of the NHL.

Morris, 56, is no stranger to the pro leagues either as he spent 8 season’s with the Manchester Monarch’s, making him the longest tenure coach in franchise history. During his time in Manchester, Morris had coached a handful of notable players such as Jonathan Quick, Matt Moulson, Jake Muzzin and Brayden Schenn.

In 628 games behind the Monarch’s bench, Morris compiled 338 wins, which is 10th all-time in AHL wins for a coach, just two behind current NHL head coach Bruce Boudreau.

Along with retaining current assistant coach John Madden, the Panthers have re-signed goalie coach Robb Tallas.

 

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Panthers Announce 2014 Development Camp Dates and Roster

On Wednesday afternoon, the Florida Panthers announced the dates, times and roster for their annual Development Camp. The camp will be held at Panthers Ice Den in Coral Springs Florida from July 7-11. All practices and scrimmages will be open to the public.

Notable invitees are 2014 1st overall pick Aaron Ekblad, 2014 32nd overall pick Jayce Hawryluk, 2013 2nd overall pick Aleksander Barkov, 2012 22nd overall pick Mike Matheson

Camp dates, times and activities:

Monday, July 7th (1:15pm-2:30pm & 2:45pm-4pm) – On ice

Tuesday, July 8th (8:45am-10am & 10:15am-11:30am) – On ice

Wednesday, July 9th- There will be no On ice session.

Thursday, July 10th (8:45am-10:15am & 9:45 am-12pm) On ice

Friday, July 11th (9am-11am) Scrimmage

Camp Roster

F Aleksander Barkov

F Joe Basaraba

F Francis Beauvillier

F Conner Brickley

D Josh Brown

F Matt Buckles

F Chris Clapperton

D Michael Downing

D Aaron Ekblad

F Miguel Fiddler

D Ben Gallacher

F Rocco Grimaldi

F Jayce Hawryluk

F Steven Hodges

F Zach Hyman

F Yaroslav Kosov

F Juho Lammikko

D Michael Matheson

D Ian McCoshen

D Jonathan Racine

F Kyle Rau

F Logan Shaw

D Colin Suellentrop

D Shayne Taker

F Vincent Trocheck

F Tony Turgeon

F Mike Vecchione

D Mackenzie Weegar

F Joe Wegwerth

F Ed Witchow

G Sam Brittain

G Evan Cowley

G Hugo Fagerblom

G Colin Stevens

We hope to see everyone there!

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Panthers Sign G Sam Brittain and D Blake Parlett

With the Viola-Cifu tandem giving Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers the green light to spend this offseason, the Panthers have kept quite busy this summer with the addition of 1st overall pick Aaron Ekblad, and the signings of six new roster players on day one of free agency. In addition, the team announced the signing of University of Denver goalie Sam Brittain to an entry-level contract, and AHL defenseman Blake Parlett to a 1-year, 2-way contract.

Brittain, 22, is coming off of his most productive season with the Denver Pioneers where he recorded a .946 save percentage, 2.22 goals against average, and 5 shut outs in 39 games. Because of his successful senior season, NCHC named Brittain the 2014 Goalie of the year, and also a finalist for the Mike Richter Award.

Parlett, 25, has spent most of his career with the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL, and both the Springfield Falcons and Connecticut Whale of the AHL. The rugged blue-liner has recorded 81 points (18G-63A) in 217 career AHL games, as well as 179 penalty minutes.

 

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Recapping the Florida Panthers Free Agent Signings

With the Viola-Cifu tandem giving Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers the green light to spend this offseason, the Panthers kept quite busy during “Free Agent Frenzy” day, announcing six signings on day one.

It’s no secret that the Panthers had a lot of holes in their line up, and they addressed a few of those holes this afternoon with the additions of Jussi Jokinen, Willie Mitchell, Dave Bolland, Derek MacKenzie, Al Montoya and Shawn Thornton.

Jussi Jokinen was the first announced signing of the day, inking a 4-year deal worth $16 million. Though he is listed as a center, Jokinen spent his last 2-years playing wing alongside Evgeni Malkin and James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins. As cliché’ as it may sound, adding another Finnish player to the lineup bodes well for 18 year old center center Aleksander Barkov, who played with Jokinen during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

While Jokinen may not be the 50 point player we caught a glimpse of last season, he still has a knack for the net and will be as productive as the centerman guiding him. If slotted with Barkov next year, look for the 2014-2015 version of the “Killer B” line.

After a bidding war between the Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Dave Bolland decided to take 5 years and $27.5M, and move to Sunrise, Florida. With strong connections to Dale Tallon during their Chicago years and a need for a 3rd line center, this deal for the Panthers seemed inevitable.

Though a nagging back injury and torn Achilles heel have kept Bolland from playing close to a full NHL season in over 3 years, when healthy, Bolland can provide the Panthers with stability up the middle, and can serve as a solid mentor for centers Barkov and Nick Bjugstad. Though Bolland hasn’t been able to provide a whole lot of production the last couple of years, lets hope for the Panthers sake Bolland can get back to the 30+ point player he once was in 2009, 2011, and 2012.

With the 3rd signing of the afternoon, the Panthers inked goaltender Al Montoya to a 2-year contract worth $1.05M AAV. This was one of the better signings for the Panthers, especially after former backup goaltender Dan Ellis struggled to find solidity between the pipes.

Montoya has spent his career as a backup with the New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets, sporting a career save percentage of .910 and 2.63 goals against average. Montoya saw his most productive season last year, appearing in 28 games with the Winnipeg Jets, recording a .920 save percentage and 2.30 GAA. As of right now, Tallon has Montoya penciled in as his No.2 goalie, with Ellis fighting for a spot.

With the loss of Krys Barch to free agency, the Panthers added former Boston Bruin heavyweight and media favorite, Shawn Thornton. Thornton, 36, is another guy who has history with Tallon during their Chicago days. The 6’2, 217 lbs forward is an imposing player who adds a lot of personality and toughness to the 4th line.

With Vincent Trocheck and Drew Shore’s future with the Panthers still undefined, the Panthers added centerman Derek MacKenzie to their roster. MacKenzie, 33, signed a 3-year deal worth $1.3M AAV. MacKenzie brings physicality, character, and a solid 2-way game to the Panthers roster. Look for MacKenzie to play 4th line minutes between Thornton and Jimmy Hayes next season.

The Panthers went a solid hour without inking a free agent, and it had fans at the edge of their seats. With Matt Niskanen signing a mega deal with the Washington Capitals, that left only one remaining capable defenseman in free agency -Willie Mitchell. Luckily, the Panthers snagged the rugged defenseman, and signed him to a low-risk deal worth $8.5M over 2-years.

While the money may seem a bit steep, Mitchell brings a much-needed element to the Panthers blue-line, as well as 2 Stanley Cups under his belt. Mitchell has been a positive possession player for the past 2 seasons, and plays a monster defensive game. He led all Los Angeles Kings in blocked shots last season with 128, and logs north of 20 minutes playing time per night. With a blueline consisting of Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson, Dylan Olsen, and Dmitry Kulikov, the addition of Willie Mitchell fills a veteran need with the departures of Ed Jovanovski, Tom Gilbert, and Mike Weaver.

While the Panthers addressed most of their needs this afternoon in Free Agency, there are still a few holes that need to be addressed come the start of the 2014-2015 season.

 

Florida Panthers Sign C Derek MacKenzie

With the Viola-Cifu tandem giving Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers the green light to spend this offseason, the Panthers remain busy in Free Agency announcing their 5th signing of the afternoon. Centerman Derek MacKenzie will move on from the Columbus Blue Jackets and bring his family to South Florida, where he has inked to a 3-year deal, worth $1.3 AAV with the Panthers.

Mackenzie, 33, is a bottom six center who has compiled 71 points over 307 career NHL games. Mackenzie has played the majority of his career with the Blue Jackets and Chicago Wolves of the AHL.

Panthers Sign F Jussi Jokinen

Tuesday afternoon, the Florida Panthers kicked off “Free Agent Frenzy” by announcing the signing of former Pittsburgh Penguin winger, Jussi Jokinen.

Jokinen, 31, is coming off of his 2nd best NHL season where he tallied 57 points (21G-36A) in 81 games with the Penguins. The Finnish-native has played for several NHL teams over his 9-year career, such as the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and Penguins.

Through 660 NHL games, Jokinen has recorded 414 points (149G-265A), 52 power play goals, and an astounding 13.3 shooting percentage.

With Malkin playing as the Penguins 2nd line center, Jokinen switched roles (formely a center) and played the majority of his time with the Penguins as a winger. Luckily for the Panthers, Jokinen is well-versed as either a centerman or a winger, so you can expect him to get some playing time with fellow Finn, Aleksander Barkov.

 

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