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Uvis Balinskis Gets New Contract, Staying with Florida Panthers

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Uvis Balinskis will remain with the Florida Panthers after signing a two-year contract extension. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

The Florida Panthers have been so impressed with the play of defenseman Uvis Balinskis that they insured he will be sticking around for a few more years.

On Wednesday, the team announced that the 27-year-old signed a two-year, one-way contract which will kick in next season.

Balinskis has played in 18 games with the Panthers so far this season but is currently playing for their American Hockey League team in Charlotte.

Florida’s pro scouts found Balinskis in the Czechia Extraliga last year as he led all defensemen in points with 35 in 50 games last year.

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The Panthers were not sure how quickly the 27-year-old would fit in at the NHL level after spending the entireity of his pro career either in the KHL or playing in Czechia.

Balinskis fit right in and made the team coming out of training camp.

“He’s adapted incredibly well,” coach Paul Maurice said early in the season.

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“From his last two exhibition games, he was incredibly noticeable. His willingness to get involved in plays and not just sit back and watch the game and play it safe. I don’t find him overly risky because he’s completed almost every play he’s tried to make but he’s been aggressive. He jumps into holes and he gets down the walls on the forecheck, so there’s definitely something there.

“You don’t want to put a ceiling on him but we know he can generate offense because he has over the course of his career. The game that he plays now tells us that he will eventually be able to generate offense but in waiting for that to happen, he’s playing a pretty good all-around game.”

Balinskis told FHN at the end of training camp that he had all but given up on his NHL dream.

After a couple of years, he explained, you just stop thinking about it.

Then the Panthers called.

“For the past couple of years, I was not really thinking about the NHL anymore,” he said. “I was just trying to be the best player in the league where I was playing. Last year was a good season and there was some interest from Florida. I sort of forgot about the NHL, but then it all came back.”

Balinskis was first noticed placing for the Latvian national team in the World Championships and last year’s Olympics in Beijing.

The Panthers scouted him while he was playing for the Liberec White Tigers in the Czech Extraliga and began talking about bringing him over to play in the United States.

“It all kind of started last season,’’ Balinskis said after being told he officially made Florida’s opening roster and would start the season in the NHL.

“In midseason, Florida reached out, came to watch my games and then took me out to dinner. I met with a couple scouts and then I had an online meeting with Paul and Bill. I got signed and now I am here.”

Balinskis made his NHL debut with the Panthers on opening night in Minnesota and has a goal with an assist in his 18 games.

He scored his first NHL goal and posted a plus-two rating on Nov. 10 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Balinskis has a goal and seven points in seven games with the AHL Checkers.

also skated in seven American Hockey League games with the Panthers affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, amassing seven points (1-6-7).

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS

  • When: Thursday, 10 p.m.
  • Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 96.5 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 4, Knights 2 (Dec. 23). At Vegas: Thursday.
  • Last Regular Season: Even 1-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Golden Knights lead 6-4-1
  • Postseason History — 2023 Stanley Cup Final: Vegas d. Florida 4-1
  • Up Next for the Florida Panthers: Saturday at Colorado, 4 p.m.

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