<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

Detroit Red Wings v Florida Panthers

Panthers cutting ties with Kopecky, Upshall

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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.

Change of plans: Murray joins Bylsma’s staff in Buffalo, not Hakstol’s in Philly

Terry Murray, Jack Johnson
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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.

Leafs’ Kozun signs with KHL Jokerit

Toronto Maple Leafs v Carolina Hurricanes

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.

Jets ink d-man Chiarot to two-year, $1.7M extension

Winnipeg Jets v St Louis Blues
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After a solid rookie campaign, Ben Chiarot has re-upped in Winnipeg.

On Thursday, Chiarot agreed to a two-year, $1.7 million extension with the Jets, the club announced. The deal carries an average annual cap hit of $850K, up from the $600K he made annually on his last contract.

The 24-year-old scored eight points in 40 games this year, missing a fairly significant chunk of time to a broken hand. Recalled in December with the Jets facing a rash of injuries on defense, Chiarot impressed enough to become a regular in the rotation, averaging over 17 minutes a night while playing in a pair of playoff games during Winnipeg’s opening-round sweep at the hands of Anaheim.

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Chiarot’s extension means Winnipeg’s blueline will continue to boast a physical presence, as he’s locked in alongside Dustin Byfuglien (6-foot-5, 260 pounds), Tyler Myers (6-8, 219). Jacob Trouba (6-2, 200) and Mark Stuart (6-2, 213).

Carolina ‘looking at all the options’ for Semin, says Francis

Carolina Hurricanes v Columbus Blue Jackets
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Buyout? Trade?

Keep him?

Those are the options Carolina GM Ron Francis is currently mulling regarding the future of forward Alex Semin. After a disappointing year in which he missed 25 games to injury and healthy scratches — finishing with a career-low six goals — Semin, who has three years and $21 million remaining on his contract, could be done with the ‘Canes in the not-too-distant future.

But as for now, his situation is up in the air.

“It’s too early to say,” Francis said this week, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “We’re looking at all the options. Is it best to keep him here or should we do something else?

“At the right time we’ll do what’s best for our organization.”

The right time could be next week, as GMs first descend on Las Vegas for the NHL Awards, then Florida for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. And with the league’s buyout window now open, this pretty much is the time for Francis and the ‘Canes to decide what to do with Semin.

A buyout would be expensive — $14 million over the next six years. It’s unclear if owner Peter Karmanos would green-light such a move but, if he did, Francis would have some salary freed up to make other moves.

A trade could also be explored, but it’s almost certain the ‘Canes would need to retain salary.

The third option, of course, is for head coach Bill Peters to continue trying to light a fire under Semin. And if Carolina is looking for something to build on, it can point to how the former 40-goal man played in February and March — 10 points in 24 games, hardly earth-shattering totals, but a potential glimmer of hope.

The reality, though, is that most signs point to him playing elsewhere next year. As the Observer noted, Francis’ remark about Semin “doesn’t sound like a general manager expecting to see a player back in his team’s lineup.”