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Two Members of 2022-23 Florida Panthers Remain Free Agents

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After a season in which he scored 14 goals with the Florida Panthers, Eric Staal remains a free agent with a few weeks left before training camp. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

When July 1 hit and the NHL market opened, most of the free agents who played for the Panthers last season found a new home or, in the case of Lucas Carlsson, re-signed with Florida.

Some, like Radko Gudas, got a nice payday in moving on. Aleksi Heponiemi even went to Europe.

But with a few weeks left before training camps start to open, all but two players who spent time with the Panthers last season know where they will be playing this season: Eric Staal and Colin White.

Both players signed on with the Panthers last season on one-year deals which were not extended.

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Staal, 38, came to Florida camp on a professional tryout with the thought that if he looked like the Panthers hoped, that would turn into the contract.

He did and it did.

White was a different story as he was a restricted free agent who was signed to a one-year deal after his contract was bought out by Ottawa.

Florida could have kept White by making him a qualifying offer but decided not to do so.

White is currently still on the market.

The two players are expected to be at training camp, somewhere, next month.

Staal is a player who showed a lot of worth coming back with the Panthers. After a slow first month as he got reacquainted to the NHL after a season away, Staal ended up finding his groove and played a nice role with Florida.

While not expected, it would not be surprising to see him back with the Panthers on a PTO.

Florida thinks highly of Staal — his brother, Marc, left as a free agent to sign with the Flyers — and could always use center depth.

Kevin Stenlund was signed by Florida on July 1 to be the new fourth line center but stranger things have happened than Staal coming back to the Panthers at least on a PTO.

Staal did seem to enjoy his season with the Panthers.

He ended the season with 14 goals and 29 points during the regular season and added two goals and five points in 21 postseason games.

“I am just proud to be associated with this group,” Staal said after Florida’s 4-3 win over Carolina in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

“This is such a determined, competitive bunch of guys. And they have been all year. It was tough at times. But it is fun in this moment. Yeah, we have work ahead of us but we can enjoy this.

“I did not say that because I did not believe it. I did. I knew it. But it wasn’t going to come easy because it doesn’t in this league. It is just fun to be with these guys.”

As for White, things did not go as smoothly in his season with the Panthers — one reason the team let him walk this summer.

Although White was versatile and moved around the lineup in numerous places, things rarely clicked and he ended the season with eight goals and 15 points in 68 games — getting just three goals with an assist from December on.

In the playoffs, he had two assists in 22 games.

“When things are not going good, it is tough and you will try anything,” White said in January. “You just have to take a deep breath and relax.”

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