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Colin White gets a fresh start with Florida Panthers

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Ottawa Senators center Colin White battles Florida’s Dominic Toninato during a game at BB&T Center in Sunrise on Dec. 16, 2019. — AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

The first player to sign on with the Florida Panthers when the free agency market opened Wednesday afternoon was now-former Ottawa Senators forward Colin White.

News of his decision broke not long after Claude Giroux officially left the Panthers for White’s now-former team.

White is not trying to replace Claude Giroux in the Florida lineup although he is going to play with a lot of Giroux’s now-former linemates.

The 25-year-old, who has played his entire career with the Senators, says he is excited about the challenges in front of him — and the potential of joining a contender such as the Panthers.

“Watching them over the past few years, this is just a super-exciting team,” White said on Thursday afternoon. “I got to talk to Bill this summer a bit before free agency and their style of play, being in Florida with the lifestyle is super intriguing. I’ve heard it is a great group of guys so I am super excited.”

The past couple of years were rough on White as he played through some injuries in the abbreviated 2021 season and then dislocated his right shoulder before the 2021-22 season even began.

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That injury required surgery and after months of rehab, White returned to the Ottawa lineup in February. He scored a goal in his first game back against the Canadiens.

White ended up playing in 24 games for the Sens, scoring three goals with 10 points at a time in which the playoffs in the Eastern Conference was long decided and his Ottawa team was just playing out the string.

“I think that was something that really upset me and I went through a lot of adversity through the year just trying to come back” he said. “That was tough for me but I did get to play around 20 games, get some confidence back but it was tough to miss 60 games and jump in for the last 20 when other teams are pushing in the playoff race.

“I thought I was able to handle it pretty well. I am excited for a fresh start, hoping for a year with no injuries. And I am working my butt off to try and do that.”

White was a first round pick by the Senators in 2015 and made his NHL debut with the team a year later.

He was, before leaving, the last remaining player from the team’s run to the Eastern Conference final in 2016, playing in one postseason game in his time in Ottawa.

White’s best season came in 2018-19 when, still considered a rookie, he scored 14 goals with 41 points but he has scored a total of 20 goals since.

He signed a five-year contract extension with Ottawa in 2019 worth almost $5 million per season — a contract that was bought out earlier this week.

The Senators saved a bunch of money against the salary cap with the move and made White a free agent.

It does not sound like it took him long to settle on the Panthers.

“I think the opportunity in Florida was too hard to turn down,” said White, who played with Anthony Duclair in Ottawa and said he is friends with Spencer Knight, Ryan Lomberg and fellow newcomer Rudolfs Balcers.

“It is something I am really looking forward to. From what I have heard and what I have seen, it is a really special group of guys.”

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