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Nick Cousins finds stability in new deal with Florida Panthers

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Nick Cousins of the Nashville Predators is pictured during a game against the Calgary Flames on April 19. — AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Before signing with the Florida Panthers last week, Nick Cousins was on the move quite a bit.

“I feel like we’re professional movers,” Cousins joked on Monday afternoon.

Since 2019, the 5-11 forward has played for four different teams: Arizona, Montreal, Vegas and Nashville.

After spending the past two seasons with the Predators, he arrives in South Florida on a two-year deal with the Panthers.

“It meant a lot,” Cousins said. “Stability is nice, a two-year deal is nice for me and my wife. We’ve been on the move a lot lately.”

The move was not just about finding a permanent home.

Florida is coming off of its best regular season in franchise history and Cousins believes he can help them build off of it.

“I know this team has a lot of potential,” he said. “If you look up and down the lineup, down the middle they have [Sasha] Barkov, [Sam] Bennett, [Anton] Lundell, that’s where championship teams are made and it’s exciting.

“You know this team has high expectations coming off of last year and when they called and say that what you on their team, it’s humbling. and I’m looking forward to getting down there and getting started.”

As great as Florida’s regular season was last year, the ending was a swift downfall.

The Panthers were quickly dispatched by the Tampa Bay Lightning in a second-round sweep.

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Cousins ended his season with a similar bad taste in his mouth.

After the Predators lost star goaltender Juuse Saros to injury just before the playoffs, they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round.

The two eventual finalists? Colorado and Tampa.

Cousins sees some parallels between Florida and the last two Stanley Cup champions.

“I think Colorado and Tampa, if you look at their track record from the last couple of years, had high expectations over the last couple of years,” Cousins said.

“I remember the one year, [Tampa] got swept by Columbus when they were the favorites to win the Stanley Cup and then they came back the next year to win the Stanley Cup.

“If you look at Colorado, they didn’t get past the first round for I don’t know how many years it was and then, this year, nobody touched them.

“If you look at the track record for the last two winners, Florida is right in that window where maybe they were the favorites last year and the second round exit maybe caught some people off guard, so I think there is going to be a level of hunger from some of the guys that lost in the second round and it’s going to be exciting to be a part of that.”

Cousins has his fair share of playoff experience as well.

The high-energy forward has made the playoffs four times in his eight-year NHL career, scoring seven points in 30 games.

He made the Western Conference final with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020, scoring five points in 17 games before losing in five to the Dallas Stars.

“That’s what you play for,” Cousins said. “You find out a lot about certain players and teams in the playoffs. It’s why you play 82 games.”

Cousins brings more than just scoring to the table when it comes to playoff hockey.

He brings energy and fight.

That was why Panthers general manager Bill Zito decided to bring him into the fray after losing forwards Mason Marchment and Claude Giroux in free agency.

“He’s a guy that when you play against him, you notice him and you don’t like him sometimes,” Zito said. “He’s a guy with sandpaper that can play both center and wing. There’s flexibility in his game with what he brings. High energy, high tempo. We think he’ll fit right in.”

Cousins believes that he can use the energy he brings to help spark his new teammates come playoff time next season.

“In playoff hockey, you kind of need those type of players that are going to drag you into the fight emotionally and I think I can,” Cousins said.

“I think I’m a player that can play all over the lineup, be hard to play against, and contribute offensively as well.”

With 444 career games under his belt, the 28-year-old forward has seen a lot over his NHL career.

He believes his experience will only help him and the Panthers going forward.

“I’ve been in the league for a while, played on a few different teams, played in some big games,” Cousins said.

“I think I could bring experience to help the younger guys. Whether they are going through a tough time or whatever, I’ll have them lean on me. I just want to contribute in any way I can. It’s what I’ve done my whole career.”

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