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Andrew Brunette: Traded Frank Vatrano ‘one of my all-time favorite guys’

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Frank vatrano
The Florida Panthers traded Frank Vatrano to the New York Rangers on Wednesday in a salary cap-clearing move less than a week before the NHL Trade Deadline. — Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

According to Florida Panthers coach Andrew Brunette, Frank Vatrano got to say his goodbyes to his teammates in Las Vegas on Wednesday after being traded to the New York Rangers.

Vatrano, 28, was in the final season of a three-year deal signed in 2019 so leaving before Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline was not much of a mystery.

For the Panthers to make the kind of additions they want to make at the deadline, they needed to move some money.

Vatrano going to the Rangers for a fourth-round pick is certainly nothing more than Florida shedding close to $2.5 million against the cap — while sending Vatrano to a contending team at the same time.

Even though it was pretty much known Vatrano would be moved before the deadline, that doesn’t make these kind of things easier on a close-knit team such as the Panthers.

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“Frankie has been part of this family at least since I have been here and he is a tremendous teammate, person,” Brunette said from Vegas’ arena on Wednesday afternoon.

“He has been such a good player for us since I have been here. It is part of hockey. Things happen. We wish Frankie nothing but the best. For him, it’s exciting. It’s a big year for him contractually and now he may get a bigger role and a different opportunity.

“We’re going to miss him. He is one of my all-time favorite guys. Such a good part of our core group. We wish him the best — and we’ll miss him.”

Vatrano found himself fighting for playing time for the first time since joining the Panthers at the end of the 2017-18 season. Before jumping back into the lineup last month, he had been a healthy scratch in nine of 12 games.

Brunette often praised the popular Vatrano for his hard work and professionalism each day. Not only did he come to the rink ready to work, he was supportive of his teammates.

A guy sulking around because he is not playing can be an immediate buzz kill.

Vatrano, by all acounts, was not that at all.

And, as Brunette mentioned Wednesday, when Vatrano scored Tuesday night to give the Panthers a 3-2 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks, Vatrano’s teammates appeared to be happier for him than they were for themselves in getting a victory.

“He is very selfless and is a guy with a lot of character,” Brunette said. “When he got an opportunity, he gave us everything he had. He won us a game last night. Again, these are tough days because he’s like a part of our family.

“We’re going to miss him.”

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