Two members of Florida’s big 2011 free agent haul are on their way out of town.
Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall — both primed to become UFAs on July 1 — won’t be offered contract extensions, Panthers GM Dale Tallon announced on Thursday.
Kopecky, 33, had a disappointing campaign in ’14-15, scoring just two goals in 64 games while routinely sitting as a healthy scratch. Upshall, 31, had slightly better production — eight goals and 15 points in 63 games — but, like Kopecky, also spent time as a healthy scratch under first-year head coach Gerard Gallant.
That Florida’s cutting ties with both isn’t surprising.
Signed in July ’11 to similar deals — Kopecky’s was a four-year pact for $12M, Upshall’s was $14M over four — the pair helped Florida make the playoffs in their first season, but struggled to be impact players over the following three (Upshall, it has to be said, was repeatedly plagued by injury.)
The duo will likely be replaced in-house. Florida has a number of young forwards looking to make the leap to the NHL next season, which includes the likes of Rocco Grimaldi, Logan Shaw, Connor Brickley and Quinton Howden.
On Thursday, Buffalo filled out Dan Bylsma’s coaching staff by adding two assistants — Terry Murray, the uncle of Sabres GM Tim Murray, and former New Jersey Devils assistant Dave Barr.
The Murray hire is an intriguing one. The 64-year-old veteran bench boss is highly regarded in NHL circles, having spent time as a head coach in Washington, Philadelphia, Florida and Los Angeles.
Most recently, he served as Philly’s AHL coach in Lehigh Valley and was thought to be a leading candidate — if not a lock — for an assistant gig with the Flyers under new head coach Dave Hakstol.
“Obviously, if there were another head-coaching position with another team in the NHL, I would want to do that,” Murray said in late May. “I’m also very realistic where things are in the game and my age now and years of experience I have in the game as a head coach.
“Would I embrace an assistant’s role? Absolutely.”
Well, Murray certainly embraced the assistant’s role… just in a different city than most expected.
As for Barr, the 54-year-old is a veteran of over 600 games and has a wealth of experience as an NHL assistant, having served in that role for the Devils, Wild and Avalanche. He was dismissed by then-New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello midway through last season, along with Peter DeBoer.
Brandon Kozun, who made ripples in Toronto at the beginning of last season by making the team out of training camp, has left the organization to sign with Finnish-based KHL club Jokerit, the team announced on Thursday.
Kozun, 25, earned an opening-night roster spot following a good exhibition campaign but suffered a serious blow shortly thereafter, suffering a high ankle sprain in mid-October. He was placed on waivers not long after returning and, after going unclaimed, proceeded to split time between the Leafs and AHL Marlies for the remainder of the year.
A former sniper with WHL Calgary, Kozun’s lack of size — he goes 5-foot-8, 167 pounds — has always worked against him, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares with Jokerit, which has been a desirable landing spot for undersized players.
Steve Moses, the diminutive forward that set a league scoring record (36 goals) for Jokerit last season, recently scored a one-year, $1 million deal from Nashville.