Tomas Kopecky, Viktor Stalberg

Tomas Kopecky signs four-year, $12 million deal with Florida to help inch closer to salary floor


The charmed life of Tomas Kopecky continues to roll on. While a member of the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 he was part of their Stanley Cup winning team. In Chicago in 2010 he helped Slovakian teammate Marian Hossa lift the Cup as Blackhawks. Now he’s been dealt to Florida and while that seems to be not-so exciting, it’s going to pay off in a big way for him.

Kopecky signed a four-year, $12 million deal  good for a $3 million cap hit with the Panthers today to have him be a contributor to the turnaround of the franchise under GM Dale Tallon. Kopecky making that much money seems outlandish and honestly insane because he finally had a solidly productive season last year punching in 15 goals and 27 assists with the Blackhawks. It was the first time he broke 40 points in his career after only scoring 21 and 19 points the two seasons prior.

The part of this deal that makes it so ridiculous is how it’s helping the Panthers reach the salary floor. While some teams are dealing with how to dance around the salary cap and spending too much money, the Panthers have to spend a lot of money just so they can rightfully play hockey. According to CapGeek, the Panthers have 13 players signed up for next year worth just over $26 million. The salary floor for next season is at $48 million and while the Panthers acquired Brian Campbell last week to help them boost their payroll and play defense, Kopecky’s deal seems to be a gross overpayment to help the team get caught up on the books.

Kopecky did get time last year playing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and was able to be somewhat productive while the Blackhawks fought off injuries. In Florida, however, depending on what else they do in free agency or otherwise he could wind up being their second line winger full time. That’s a bit daunting for a team turning things around and banking on a guy who has had just one statistically productive season.

It’s a continual work in progress for the Panthers but as a team that’s not generating a ton of money and being forced to spend at least $48 million on payroll, it’s a rough life as Michael Traikos of The National Post in Canada finds out. Dale Tallon says it’s a challenge he’s eager to tackle.

“We’re excited about this,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon told reporters. “It took a lot of pain to get ourselves in this position. We’ve earned the right to do what we need to do to get this franchise turned around.”

Sadly for Tallon, the free agent group this year isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. With Brad Richards as the top guy available and the Panthers in need of a goalie should Tomas Vokoun leave town as a free agent, the Panthers have a lot of work to do either in free agency or through more wheeling and dealing. Panthers fans have been down and out of it for a while, but for the first time in a long time they’ve got a reason to pay attention come July 1.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
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Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.