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Marc Staal ‘Excited’ to Join the Contending Florida Panthers

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Marc staal panthers
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Marc Staal battles with Florida Panthers center Sasha Barkov during a game on Feb. 20, 2021, in Detroit. — AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Over the past two seasons, the Florida Panthers have become one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and few players not on the Tampa Bay Lightning has played them as much as Marc Staal.

As a member of the Detroit Red Wings, Staal shared a division with the Panthers the last two years and has played Florida 12 times during that span.

While the Red Wings were attempting to rebuild and were stuck at the bottom of the division, the Panthers were making their move up the standings — finishing second in the Covid Central in 2021 and winning the Atlantic last season.

When the opportunity was offered for Staal to sign on with the Panthers as a free agent last month, he jumped at the chance.

He says being on a contender again, and  on a team he knows pretty well, is exciting.

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”Obviously I am very ecstatic about that,” said Staal, a 35-year-old defenseman who has played in over 1,000 games either with the New York Rangers or with Detroit the past two seasons.

“I get to join a really talented team that has playoff and Stanley Cup ambitions. To get back into that mix is very exciting for me. I am very motivated, very excited to join the team. … I’m looking forward to taking care of my business on the ice and compete and lead by example, help out where I can. This is a very talented group and I am just excited to be a part of it and help out anyway I can.”

When free agency opened, Staal was playing golf at the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links with his brothers, taking advantage of the gift Jordan Staal was given by his Carolina teammates last year to commemorate his 1,000th NHL game.

Talks with the Panthers quickly developed into a contract offer — one year at $750,000 — and the opportunity to play alongside his older brother Eric who will come to Florida camp on a tryout.

Eric Staal, a player Florida could have drafted in 2003 yet decided to select Nathan Horton instead, did not play in the NHL last season.

“The four brothers were all together and we just finished a round of golf and this all sort of came about,” Marc Staal said. “Pretty cool day, pretty cool memory. I am very excited to go down there and (Eric) is excited get an opportunity to get back into the NHL.”

Quite a bit has changed around the Panthers since the Staals agreed to join the Panthers.

When Marc first spoke with the South Florida media in July, he spoke highly of both Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, two players who are now in Calgary after being traded to the Flames for Matthew Tkachuk.

With Weegar gone, the Panthers’ blue line will most certainly look different.

Gus Forsling is expected to get a look playing on the top pairing with Aaron Ekblad although Brandon Montour could slide in there as well.

For Staal, just getting back on a team with high expectations is a boost.

After making a couple of deep postseason runs with the Rangers, Staal has not been in the playoffs since 2020.

He is ready to make it back with the Panthers.

“I am excited for that heighten expectation, the expectation to win every night,” he said. “Have the pressure of being the team that every other team wants to beat. That is a fun thing to be a part of and I have missed that the past number of years. Joining these guys was really a no-brainer.”

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