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Justin Sourdif: Long Road Back to Florida Panthers Not Long at All

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Florida Panthers rookie Justin Sourdif, pictured in a preseason game against Carolina, was recalled to the opening night roster on Tuesday. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

CORAL SPRINGS — On Monday, the Florida Panthers officially made rookie Justin Sourdif their final cut of camp and assigned him to their AHL team in Charlotte.

By Tuesday, the Panthers recalled him from Charlotte.

Good thing he never left town, eh?

Although Sourdif did not show up at the team’s training facility on Tuesday, he was not far away. He got a workout in at the team hotel he has been staying at and waited for the official word that he was back.

Wednesday, Sourdif was filling in for Anton Lundell on Florida’s third line at practice and gearing up for his first NHL road trip.

It was a long and winding road back to the NHL — minus the long and the winding.

“I was really, really happy when I got the news from Billy and Paul that I would be coming back up,” Sourdif said from his locker stall at the IceDen on Wednesday. “I did not get to practice yesterday so it was just a joy to get back out here.”

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Sourdif, to put it plainly, was never going anywhere.

The Panthers simply did not want to place Aaron Ekblad on long-term injured reserve until Tuesday when they could recapture more of his $7.5 million salary.

Because Florida was about $500,000 under the cap when the final 22-man roster was put in on Monday — one minus Sourdif — the Panthers are able to claim $7 million of cap space from placing Ekblad on LTIR.

While Sourdif would not say if he was told about all of this on Monday when the roster was finalized, one has to assume he was.

This is what is called a “paper transaction.’’

Sourdif was likely never planning on going to North Carolina even though he said he “was originally supposed to be headed to Charlotte and was making plans and booking flights and I then I got the news I would be staying up. I was really happy about all that.”

Regardless of the salary cap gymnastics, Sourdif making his first NHL team is something to celebrate.

A third-round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, Sourdif had an exceptional junior career before going pro with the Panthers last season.

This year, Sourdif had another strong showing at the rookie showcase and parlayed that into a camp in which he showed the Panthers he belonged at the NHL level.

“He had a real strong year last year,’’ Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “He has a willingness to get into the heavy areas quickly, has real good hands and we like his energy. We think there are two real good prospects here who would make their NHL debuts sooner rather than later. He was very good”

On Wednesday, Sourdif filled in for Lundell whom Maurice said was held out of practice for precautionary reasons.

“We fully expect him in the lineup tomorrow,” Maurice said.

That means Sourdif’s NHL debut is going to have to wait as he is not expected to play Thursday in Minnesota.

Barring an emergency, the Panthers will let him know when that debut will come so friends and family can make plans to attend.

“They are pretty excited,’’ he said. “This is a lifelong dream of mine to make an NHL roster and I could not wait to call them up. It was an awesome phone call, for sure.’’

For now, Sourdif is just pleased to have moved one step closer to his dream.

Few have smiled as much as Sourdif did while packing up his gear Wednesday for the flight to Minnesota.

This was one plane he was going to catch.

“It is a long season and I am always trying to be ready whether it is up here or in Charlotte,” Sourdif said. “I take it day-by-day and when I get in, I want to try and help the team win some games by making an impact. If not, I’ll be in Charlotte trying to win with those guys and improve my game.”

PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT MINNESOTA WILD

  • When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last season: Florida won 2-0
  • This season: Florida @ Minnesota, Thursday; Minnesota @ Florida, Jan. 19
  • All-time regular season series: Minnesota leads 18-10-2, 1 tie
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday at Winnipeg Jets, 4 p.m. (BSF, 790-AM)

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