Claude Giroux arrives in Florida: ‘Time to go to work’

SUNRISE, Fla. — The routine never changed. Claude Giroux and his wife Ryanne would find themselves talking daily in recent weeks about their options, if it made sense for the longtime captain of the Philadelphia Flyers to go to a new team, and which one would be the best fit.

The answer never changed, either.

“It was always coming down to Florida,” Giroux said. “It’s something that just feels like it was meant to be.”

The Panthers couldn’t agree more.

After 1,000 games in Flyers orange and black, Giroux was breaking in a new cap bearing Florida red and blue on Monday. The biggest move of the NHL’s trade deadline came over the weekend when the Panthers acquired the veteran forward, and the seven-time All-Star was formally introduced Monday by his new club.

“He wants to win,” Panthers general manager Bill Zito said. “I got a text from somebody who had played with him, saying ‘you got the ultimate competitor.’ … He checks all the boxes.”

Giroux didn’t expect the season to have turned out this way. He had no designs on leaving Philadelphia, no reason to think that the Flyers would struggle this much and fall out of playoff contention so quickly.

But over the last few weeks, a move seemed inevitable. Further, it was also clear that no move would come before Giroux’s 1,000th game with the Flyers — which happened amid fanfare on Thursday. It was a celebration and a farewell, which was no secret by that point. Giroux was emotional taking his Flyers jersey off that night, then waited to see how the next couple days would play out.

He wanted Florida, which was already known to be all-in on its quest for a title after trading with Montreal for defenseman Ben Chiarot — a particularly wise move considering top Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad will miss a few weeks with a lower body injury.

Giroux had a no-trade clause waived to make the move happen. Then he just sat back and waited to see if it would get done.

“When we were kind of out of the playoffs that’s when I started thinking, where could I go, what would be a good place, a good fit for me to go and play and win a Cup,” Giroux said. “I was just looking around the teams and there was something about Florida. Every time I was tuning into a game, I just liked the way they played. And so, for me, I just thought it’d be a perfect fit.”

Giroux wouldn’t say if he’d have accepted a trade anywhere else. It seems doubtful that he would have.

“He earned that right to decide, to have a big say in where he would go, I think is the best way to put it,” Flyers president and general manager Chuck Fletcher said over the weekend. “I did have a very limited market in terms of the teams I could speak with. I spoke with several teams, but not all of those teams I would have been able to complete a deal with. There was a lot of interest in Claude, but it was a very limited market, ultimately, that I could give him to.”

No team has an easier schedule down the stretch of the regular season than the Panthers based on average points per opponent. Starting with Thursday’s game at Montreal, Florida plays six of its next seven games with teams that are out of playoff contention — and only four of the Panthers’ final 20 games are against teams that are currently in position to make the postseason.

Barring all-out collapse, Florida will smash its franchise record for points; the Panthers are at 90 now, the club record is 103 in 2015-16. They’re on pace for 336 goals; the club record there is 267. They’ve never finished better than fourth in the leaguewide regular-season standings; they’re second right now, legitimately in the race to win the President’s Trophy.

All that is nice.

The Panthers don’t care about any of it.

From the outset this season has been about winning a Stanley Cup, and the moves for Chiarot and Giroux only underscore how committed Florida — a team that hasn’t won a single playoff series since 1996 — is on making this the year where the Panthers hoist hockey’s chalice.

“That’s the reason I’m here,” Giroux said. “I’m here to win. I’m here to help the team win. That’s the reason why this trade happened. This team has a great chance to go far in the playoffs. Obviously, there’s a lot of great teams in the East, but coming to this team, I think I can help this team. And it’s time to go to work.”

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    Blue Jackets acquire D Damon Severson from Devils after he signs 8-year deal

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils on Friday after the veteran defenseman and soon-to-be free agent signed an eight-year $50 million contract.

    Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sent a third-round pick, 80th overall, in this month’s draft to the Devils for Severson, who will be under contract through the 2030-31 NHL season.

    Severson had 58 goals and 205 assists in 647 career appearances with the Devils since making his NHL debut in 2014-15. He scored seven game-winning goals and averaged more than 21 minutes of playing time during his nine seasons. The 28-year-old had seven goals and 26 assists this season, including two game-winning goals, in 81 games.

    “Damon is a versatile defenseman who has great vision, moves the puck extremely well, has good size and can play heavy minutes at both ends of the ice,” Kekalainen said.

    The Canadian was selected in the second round in the 2012 draft. He has collected 30 or more points five times in his career and twice notched 11 or more goals. He played in every game in three straight seasons from 2018-21 and has played 80 or more contests four times in his career.

    With the addition of the third-round pick, New Jersey now has six selections in the draft, including its own picks in rounds two, four, five, six and seven.

    Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

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    Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

    The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

    Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

    The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

    “I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

    Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

    Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

    At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

    “You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

    Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

    “He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

    Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

    The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

    Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

    “It was fine,” he quipped.

    Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

    Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

    Game 4 is Saturday night.

    Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

    Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

    His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

    The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

    It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

    Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

    Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

    As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

    But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


    Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.

    Blackhawks, Athanasiou agree to 2-year, $8.5 million contract

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    CHICAGO — The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks locked in one of their top scorers, agreeing to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with forward Andreas Athanasiou on Thursday.

    The 28-year-old Athanasiou tied for the team lead with 20 goals and ranked third with 40 points in his first season with Chicago. He matched career highs with four game-winning goals and three power-play goals.

    The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Athanasiou has 125 goals and 111 assists in 459 games with the Detroit Red Wings (2015-20), Edmonton Oilers (2020), Los Angeles Kings (2020-22) and Blackhawks.

    Chicago went 26-49-7 and finished last in the Central Division. The Blackhawks dealt Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline and announced in April they would not re-sign Jonathan Toews, parting with two players who led them to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.