SUNRISE — Mike Reilly was not with the Florida Panthers very long as the defenseman signed with the team in July, played in two games and then was waived on Black Friday.
Yet, as has been the case with so many players who have joined the Panthers, Reilly said he felt very welcomed by the organization — from the players to the coaching staff and front office.
On Saturday, a week after being claimed by the New York Islanders, Reilly returned to Sunrise to face his now-former teammates.
He played 8:51 and had three shots in the Islanders 4-3 win.
“I know it is kind of short, and I think it would be easy for me to be negative about what happened in Florida but the guys were great,’’ Reilly said following Saturday’s morning skate.
“The coaches were honest and Bill Zito handled it with me — we spoke a couple of times. The staff and everything, you can tell they treat the guys well. I have nothing but good things to say. It feels kind of weird because, even though I wasn’t playing much, I was getting to know the guys more and more and what was going on. It is a great group in there.”
Being waived by the Panthers probably did not come as much of a surprise to Reilly based on how things were going.
Florida loaded up on defensemen in free agency what with Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour being out following summertime surgery.
The thought was, things would play out while those two were away.
There would not be room for everyone.
With Florida using Uvis Balinskis, Josh Mahura and Dmitry Kulikov as their main bottom pairing defensemen and not playing Reilly, it became pretty obvious how things were working out.
Yet the Panthers did not have to waive Reilly — at least not immediately.
Florida had room to continue carrying him until Mahura was activated off IR but felt it was the right thing to allow Reilly to move on and have a chance to play somewhere else.
With injuries to Sebastian Aho and Adam Pelech, the New York Islanders really needed some defensive help; the timing of Reilly being on waivers could not have come at a better time as GM Lou Lamoriello snapped him up and immediately placed him in the lineup.
“When I heard it was New York and I was either going to clear or get picked up, I was very excited,” Reilly said Saturday. “I am familiar with a couple of guys here and played them in the playoffs a couple of years ago so I was comfortable with their style.
“I was really excited. It was a great opportunity. This is a team in a win-now mode and seems to make the playoffs every year. That’s exciting to be able to join that.”
As for working through being moved early in a season, Reilly has had to deal with physically moving from Fort Lauderdale to Long Island.
Reilly said Saturday that, with the help of the two teams, it looks like he will be able to break his lease and move on.
His mother Lisa has been helping and getting the place cleared out while he settles in with a new team and a new locale.
Hey, it’s not like the apartment complex is going to have a problem renting the place.
“My mom does interior design work so she is familiar about moving furniture and changing places and stuff,” Mike Reilly said.
“Yeah, it was kind of hectic but it’s great that my mom can help out. My dad is not very good at that kind of stuff. They are getting it off my hands.”
DALLAS STARS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
- National TV/Streaming: TNT, HBO Max
- Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
- Last Season: Dallas won 2-0
- This Season — At Florida: Wednesday. At Dallas: March 12.
- All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 24-21-2, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Friday vs. Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.