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Florida Panthers work to make most of limited salary cap space

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The Florida Panthers made four additions on Wednesday’s opening of free agency as they spent about $3 million with limited cap space. From top left: Marc Staal, Nick Cousins, Eric Staal and Colin White. — AP Photo

With very little salary cap space to work with when free agency opened Wednesday afternoon, Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito went to work trying to address team needs.

While it was tough seeing players such as Claude Giroux, Mason Marchment and Ben Chiarot move on to sign big-ticket contracts the Panthers simply could not afford to come close to matching, the Florida front office went after players they feel can help them moving forward — and would do so at a reasonable term.

Florida’s subtractions on Wednesday were massive, make no mistake about it.

”They are people first and you get to know them and Mason was a guy who I can’t thank him enough,” Zito said. “We just didn’t have the cap space. A lot of times you are limited by the rules and what you have. … It’s a hard thing to do but it’s part of life in the National Hockey League. But it’s never easy.’’

The core of the Panthers remains.

It was Zito’s task to go about in trying to find affordable fits, to add to what the team already possesses.

While a number of teams in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference improved their lot, the Panthers are going to try and run things back with a majority of last year’s team returning — with some additions from within and from players acquired on Wednesday.

Florida added forwards Colin White, Nick Cousins and added 25-year-old left wing Rudolfs Balcers on Thursday.

The Panthers also signed defenseman Marc Staal and will have Eric Staal in on a training camp tryout.

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