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

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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.

The Buzzer: Thornton moves up all-time scoring list; Kings snap six-game losing skid

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Players of the Night:

Brian Elliott looked solid in Philadelphia’s overtime win over the Capitals, as he turned aside 27 of 28 shots. This was the first time in eight games that the Flyers netminder allowed fewer than three goals in a game, but he’s still been victorious in three of his last four outings.

• How about that goalie duel between Connor Hellebuyck and Anders Nilsson. The Jets won the game, but both goaltenders were fantastic during this all-Canadian matchup.

• Sticking with the goalie theme, Aaron Dell was fantastic between the pipes for in San Jose’s win against Anaheim. Even when starter Martin Jones comes back from a lower-body injury, Dell should continue to be a factor for the Sharks.

• Sharks forward Mikkel Boedker had a solid night at the office, as he racked up two goals and an assist against the Ducks. That’s impressive considering he only had 12 points on the season coming into tonight’s action.

• The Kings’ power play isn’t a player, but it came to play tonight against the Rangers. Los Angeles got three goals on the man-advantage from Jake Muzzin, Michael Amadio and Tanner Pearson. Those three power play markers helped them snap their six-game losing skid.

Highlights:

Poor Markus Granlund never saw Hellebuyck coming:

That’s a pretty sweet shot from Kevin Labanc:

Here are two pretty sweet backhand passes leading up to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare‘s goal:

Alex Ovechkin scored a power play from his favorite spot on the ice:

Non-called Penalty of the Night:

That’s a pretty dangerous hit by Dmitry Orlov on Claude Giroux. No boarding call?

Factoids:

That’s a lot of power play goals for Ovechkin:

Joe Thornton keeps movin’ on up:

The Rangers have received some balanced scoring this season:

The Golden Knights simply can’t be stopped. What a season they’re having:

Scores:

Flyers 2, Capitals 1 (OT)

Golden Knights 5, Hurricanes 1

Jets 1, Canucks 0

Sharks 6, Ducks 2

Kings 4, Rangers 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Fight Video: Kempe comes to Lewis’ defense by dropping gloves with Smith

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It’s not every day that you see Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe drop the gloves, but he did so against the Rangers tonight.

Things got chippy at the end of the first period between the Rangers and Kings. As both teams were mixing it up, New York’s Brendan Smith shoved Trevor Lewis from behind. Kempe wasn’t impressed with Smith’s move, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Here’s Smith’s shove on Lewis:

And this is the fight between Smith and Kempe:

(h/t: hayyyshayyy on Twitter)

As you can tell from the above video, Smith is the more experienced fighter. Also, Kempe has great hair, but it’s clearly not practical when dropping the gloves.

Thanks to Smith, the Kings got a power play to start the second period. Defenseman Jake Muzzin cashed in on the man-advantage to cut Los Angeles’ deficit to 2-1.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Expansion Golden Knights are officially in first place (Update)

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Just like we all predicted in September, the Vegas Golden Knights are sitting in first place in the NHL.

The Golden Knights’ 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes allowed them to collect their 65th and 66th points of the season, which moved them one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the league (both teams have played 46 games).

PHT’s Adam Gretz wrote a terrific piece about Golden Knights’ amazing first season to date.

It’s only fitting that Vegas got a good amount of production from some of their most pleasant surprises tonight. Jonathan Marchessault, Colin Miller and James Neal also found the back of the net.

As you’d expect, the Golden Knights’ Twitter account is having fun marking this occasion.

“Maybe a little unexpected, right?,” Marc-Andre Fleury said of his team’s success, per NHL.com. “It’s been a lot of fun. We started this team from scratch and chemistry was built very quick between us. Every night, all the guys bring their best effort. I’m proud of our team to be where we’re at right now.”

We’ve had over three months to come to grips with everything the Golden Knights have done, but it’s still amazing to see how some of the players on their roster have produced during Vegas’ inaugural season.

 

43 points in 43 games for Marchessault? 25 goals at the midway point of the season for William Karlsson? Nobody saw those things coming. What makes this even more impressive is that they’ve had to roll four goalies (Fleury, Oscar Dansk, Malcolm Subban and Maxime Lagace).

“Early on in the year, I think we surprised some teams. Now I think every team will get up to play us. It’s just something that will be another test for this group,” Miller told NHL.com.

Now the question is, how far can this pesky expansion team go?

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Struggling Lightning lose Ondrej Palat for indefinite period of time

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have been going through a difficult stretch lately and things got a lot more difficult on Sunday. The team announced that Ondrej Palat is out indefinitely after taking a spear from Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon on Saturday night.

The Bolts, who are on an eight-game road trip, have confirmed that Palat will head back to Tampa on Monday for further testing. He’s accumulated eight goals and 30 points in 46 games this season.

Although the video isn’t the clearest, this is the play that led to the injury:

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the Lightning have been slumping badly of late. They’ve dropped three games in a row to Calgary, Vegas and Minnesota.

Their once giant lead atop the Atlantic Division has dwindled to three points over the Boston Bruins, who have a game in hand.

“We’re just out of synch, it’s unreal,” head coach Jon Cooper said, per The Tampa Times. “The guys didn’t forget how to play hockey in the last week and a half. We’re just out of synch. One guy zigs, the other guy zags. It’s crazy that in the last week and a half, we kind of lost our swag.”

The Bolts will continue their road trip in Chicago, Nashville and Philadelphia before the All-Star break. On top of their difficult schedule, they’ll also be without number one defenseman Victor Hedman for the next few weeks.

Their spot in the playoffs isn’t in any danger, but the number one seed in the league (Vegas is coming in a hurry) and top spot in the division is in doubt.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.