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NHL Free Agency: Florida Panthers Creating Roster Battles

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Nhl free agency
Jesper Boqvist celebrates with Linus Ullmark after he scored in overtime to beat the Panthers on April 6. Boqvist signed with Florida earlier this week. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

With what they have done in NHL free agency this week, the Florida Panthers have insured themselves quite a few battles for roster spots come September.

Florida, as things stand right now, has eight of their top nine forward spots set.

On the blueline, the cap-strapped Panthers have six of the seven spots accounted for.

They even appear to have a fight for the backup goalie position.

The defending Stanley Cup champions should have a very interesting training camp.

“We want to keep going, keep evolving,” general manager Bill Zito said on Monday afternoon after adding two players to the roster. He has since added quite a few more.

“Guys get paid, just look at Tampa; guys get paid and you can’t keep everybody, and guys move on. We’re trying to get people in here who can contribute, who are good people, and are good team guys.”

The signings Florida has made since NHL free agency period started Monday at noon are not ones which will blow anyone out of the water.

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The biggest news around the Panthers surrounds the players they kept: Sam Reinhart got a new eight-year deal under market value at $69 million; Anton Lundell is locked in for the next six years at $5 million; Dmitry Kulikov likely ending his career with Florida with a four-year contract.

Florida, obviously, also lost some key pieces to its Cup championship team in Brandon Montour (Seattle), Ryan Lomberg (Calgary), Kevin Stenlund (Utah), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Toronto), and Anthony Stolarz (Toronto).

Nick Cousins, Steven Lorentz, and Kyle Okposo remain unsigned.

The new signings have been under-the-radar types who may just prove valuable as this next season gets going.

On Friday, Florida added defenseman Jaycob Megna — he was born in Plantation but grew up in the Chicago area — on a two-way deal.

He should battle for one of the open spots on the blueline along with rookie Matt Kiersted, Toby Bjornfot, and others.

Nate Schmidt, a veteran who is looking to jumpstart his career after being bought out by Winnipeg, should be one of Florida’s six defensemen along with Uvis Balinskis.

The most fluid spots on the roster will be outside the top-9.

While we project rookie Mackie Samoskevich to be on the third line with Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen, Florida should have five more spots to fill.

Tomas Nosek and A.J. Greer were the first two free agents signed by the Panthers on Monday, likely for fourth-line roles.

“They fit in, have flexibility, have a little grit, and have hockey sense,’’ Zito said. “They can play a lot of different roles, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.’’

Then there are newcomers MacKenzie Entwhistle and Jesper Boqvist.

They will be in the roster mix along with returnees Jonah Gadjovich, Rasmus Asplund, Will Lockwood, Zac Dalpe, and rookie Justin Sourdif.

Competition is always a good thing — and the Panthers will plenty of it when camp gets going in two months.

More FHN Coverage of the Stanley Cup Champion Panthers:
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
  • NHL Free Agency: Opened Monday
  • Florida Panthers Development Camp, Fort Lauderdale: Monday-Thursday
  • Florida Panthers Training Camp, Fort Lauderdale: Mid-September
  • Florida Panthers Preseason: Sept. 22-Oct. 5
  • Florida Panthers Opening Night/Banner Unveiling: Oct. 8 vs. Bruins

 

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