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.
The Boston Bruins pulled off a dramatic comeback against the Philadelphia Flyers this afternoon, putting the pressure on the Florida Panthers to beat the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders just to keep pace. The Panthers didn’t make it look easy, but they got two points in a 4-3 shootout victory.
Without defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forward Tomas Kopecky (both flu), the Panthers leaned heavily on 35-year-old Brian Campbell and 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr, giving them 26:18 and 21:12 minutes of ice time respective. However, it was ultimately Jonathan Huberdeau, 21, that proved to be the hero tonight.
He netted a key goal for the Panthers in the third period and accounted for the only marker in the shootout.
The Panthers also had Dan Ellis playing between the pipes as goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya are both sidelined. Ellis kicked out 25 of 28 shots before out dueling Frans Nielsen, John Tavares, and Josh Bailey in the skills competition.
Florida improved to 29-23-14 to remain two points shy of the Bruins in the battle for the second Wild Card spot. It’s worth noting though that Boston has a huge lead in ROW (30 to 22), so any tie is projected to go to the Bruins.
The Florida Panthers have made a big splash prior to Monday’s trade deadline, acquiring 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr from New Jersey in exchange for in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2015 and a conditional third-round draft pick in 2016.
Jagr has scored 11 goals and 29 points in 57 games for the Devils this season, but recently complained about his lack of ice time and the club’s narrowing (virtually closed) window for making the playoffs. While there’s no guarantee he’ll get there with Florida, the Panthers do have a better shot — heading into tonight’s action they’re just two points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Florida will mark Jagr’s eighth NHL stop, having previously spent time in Pittsburgh, Washington, New York (Rangers), Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston and New Jersey. It’s also worth pointing out that his last foray into the playoffs came during the Bruins’ run to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final — and now, Jagr’s playing for a Florida team that’s chasing the B’s in the standings.
The Panthers clearly made this move with veteran playoff experience in mind. In their release, they note that Jagr is now the sixth Stanley Cup-winner on the active roster, joining Dave Bolland, Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, Willie Mitchell and Shawn Thornton.
Much will also be made of Jagr’s age, given how many youngsters Florida has in the fold. To put things in perspective, Calder Trophy candidate Aaron Ekblad, 18, was born in 1996 — the same year Jagr scored a career-high 67 goals and 149 points.
Some trade details, per ESPN: