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Montoya wants to do more than give Luongo ‘a night off’ in Florida


For a first-round-pick turned journeyman backup, Al Montoya seems to be rather ambitious about his new gig with the Florida Panthers.

Then again, as the first Cuban-American in the NHL, it makes sense that his signing can help the team off the ice. He detailed that interesting opportunity to the Miami Herald.

“I was blessed with a gift and the Cuban people are a motivated bunch, a passionate bunch,” Montoya said. “I’m just lucky enough to where I have an arena to show off my American dream. It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’ve been. Everyone can play hockey. Like I said, the Cuban people are very passionate. Once they figure out what the game is like, it’s tough to let go.”

This is about more than just spreading the game to a demographic group that might not be totally inclined toward the sport, though. Montoya wants to be a difference-maker when he’s on the ice, as well.

“The coach and the team knows what I’m capable of and when I’m called, I’m going out there to win games,” he said. “I’m not just there to give Roberto a night off, I’m there to help the team move forward. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think things are headed in the right direction. I haven’t seen my best yet.”

If nothing else, Montoya showed that he could be a difference-maker when called upon last season. While Ondrej Pavelec put up discouraging numbers once again as the Winnipeg Jets’ starter (22-26-7, .901 save percentage), Montoya managed a 13-8-3 record and a nice .920 save percentage. As reliable as Luongo has been as one of the NHL’s most consistent performers in net, the Panthers would likely jump at the chance to give their 29-year-old backup a decent amount of reps if he can replicate his 2013-14 numbers.

That’s especially true if he draws more fans into the building.

After PTO, Upshall signs one-year deal with Blues

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Scottie Upshall has parlayed his training camp tryout into a contract with St. Louis.

On Monday, the Blues agreed to a one-year, two-way deal with the veteran forward, worth $700,000 at the NHL level. The deal comes after Upshall spent all of training camp and the preseason impressing the Blues his speed and skating ability, no small feat for a 31-year-old veteran with over 500 NHL games on his odometer.

But where Upshall fits in the Blues lineup — and within the organization — remains to be seen.

The club has plenty of depth up front and Upshall isn’t coming off a terrific campaign, having scored just eight goals and 15 points in 63 games with Florida last season. That said, he showed enough to be just one of a handful of veterans on PTOs to score a contract.

Panthers’ Crouse is going back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
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Lawson Crouse is going back to junior. The big 18-year-old winger confirmed it today on Twitter.

Crouse was drafted 11th overall in June by the Florida Panthers. Despite the club’s belief that Crouse could make “an immediate impact” on the roster, he finished the preseason with just two shots and one assist in three games.

Crouse will return to the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, with whom he’ll look to improve on his modest point totals from last season.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure on the kid,” coach Gerard Gallant said last week. “If he doesn’t make the team this year he goes back to junior … and will have a lot of success.”