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Panthers go big again, like huge: Sign Bergenheim to cap off eventful day

Jul 2, 2011, 2:41 AM EDT

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Four Getty Images

Dale Tallon said the Florida Panthers were going to be busy, but no one expected this.  They were by far the busiest team on Friday as they signed six unrestricted free agents en route to giving the team a complete facelift. Through the first day of free agency, they were able to recruit and sign four forwards, a defenseman, and a goaltender to start for the starting position next year. Here’s a rundown of each UFA signing today:

Fleischmann: 4 years, $18 million

Marcel Goc: 3 years, $5.1 million

Scottie Upshall: 4 years, $14 million

Sean Bergenheim: 4 years, $11 million

Ed Jovanovski: 4 years, $16.5 million

Jose Theodore: 2 years, $3 million

But wait! There’s more! The Panthers were also successful in signing pending free agent Tomas Kopecky to a 4 year, $12 million extension a day before he hit the open market.

Yes, there’s even more! They were also able to bring two former Blackhawks into the fold in two separate trades. Kris Versteeg, who was acquired on Friday, has 1 year remaining at $3.01 million. Brian Campbell was acquired at the draft and has 5 years remaining at $7.14 million per season. With the seven newcomers acquired today joining Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky, half of the Panthers opening night roster has flipped in a week. George Richards from the Miami Herald talked to a pumped up David Booth:

“I’m really excited to be a Panther. This is by far the most we’ve done since I’ve been here. This is change that’s been needed. It’s going to be a brand new team, guys have a lot to prove. This is awesome to see. I want to be part of this process. I know things are going to change around here. These guys want to win. Man, it’s exciting.”

Not to go all HFBoards on the topic, but the best way to fully comprehend all of the Panthers’ moves is to compare their line-up at the end of the season against their potential line-up on opening night.

Forwards
Samsonov – Weiss – Skille
Booth – Reasoner – Dadonov
Repik – Santorelli – Bergfors
Rissmiller – Thomas – Kennedy

Defensemen
Garrison – Weaver
Kulikov – Ellerby
Callahan – Wilson

Goaltenders
Vokoun – Clemmensen

Next year’s roster

Forwards
Tomas Fleischmann – Weiss – Skille
Booth – Goc – Dadonov
Versteeg – Upshall – Kopecky
Bergenheim – Santorelli – Repik

Defensemen
Garrison – Weaver
Kulikov – Ellerby
Campbell – Jovanovski

Goaltenders
Theodore – Clemmensen

In addition to the roster that already looks complete, the Panthers have one of the best prospect pools in all of the NHL. Guys like Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Quinton Howden all have NHL potential and will enter training camp trying to make the opening night roster as well. In less than a week, the Panthers have gone from a team that had an AHL roster, to a team that will have players competing for spots on the team.

Assistant GM Mike Santos explains the Panthers’ philosophy as they spent like a kid with his allowance burning a hole in his pocket:

“I don’t think what we did today was add any type of a superstar player. But I think that all of these players have the ability to contribute offensively and make us a tough team to play against because we’ll be able to roll four lines and probably score with all four lines. And that’s something we haven’t been able to do here in a long time.”

Some will argue that the money spent was not money well spent. There’s no doubt that there was some serious overpayment for some of the free agents—but isn’t that to be expected? First of all, the Panthers needed to spend serious money just to get to the salary cap floor. Mission accomplished. Secondly, they probably needed to overpay a few players to help convince players to take their talents to South Beach. People forget, but Dale Tallon had to do the same thing in Chicago before it became a desired destination for free agents. For teams that don’t have a winning culture, overpaying for free agents is a fact of life. People can complain about the length of some of the contracts, but at the end of the day, the Panthers targeted the players they wanted and they made it happen.

At this point in their development, fans can’t ask for anything more.

  1. jpelle82 - Jul 2, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    still no goalie…

  2. lightningstrikes04 - Jul 2, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    As a Lightning fan I love me some Bergie, but he was definitely a result of the line that he played on. Moore and Downie made him what he was, as made evident by his sub-par performance when he played with the Islanders. As is the case with everyone of the signings that the Panthers made, throwing money at average players, does not make them better than average. This team will be no better next season, because of this huge offseason, in my opinion.

  3. aherna - Jul 3, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    these moves don’t make the panthers into a playoff-ready club. but the cats should be a more entertaining draw with these players until markstrom, huberdeau, gudbranson, shore, petrovic, bjustad, grimaldi and a few other prospects eventually mature. nevetheless, the fragility of fleischmann and goc ought to temper too much triumphalism. the panthers ownership better hope the concert revenue keeps pouring in at their arena to subsidize its high-risk bet.

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