Panthers sign Sean Bergenheim
Bergenheim seemingly came out of nowhere and became a postseason hero, scoring nine goals in 16 playoff games to help lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Eastern Conference finals.
It was the latest in a string of deals from Panthers GM Dale Tallon on the opening day of the market, signing seven veterans and acquiring another in a trade. Tallon said the moves provided not only a new-look roster but also a better one.
"We're committed to turning this around," he said. "It was very painful last year to do what we had to do and now we want to start to enjoy this process and see some success."
Burnside: GM quickly redefines Panthers
Watching the dramatic transmogrification of the long-suffering Florida Panthers and their gung-ho dive into free agency Friday, we can't help but think of the situation GM Dale Tallon was in during the first couple of seasons after the lockout, writes Scott Burnside. Blog
Leading the list of free-agent signings was five-time All-Star defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who began his career in Florida after being the first overall pick in the 1994 draft.
Also joining the Panthers was veteran goalie Jose Theodore, who won the Hart and Vezina trophies while with the Montreal Canadiens in 2001-02. The other free agents signed were forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall and Marcel Goc and defenseman Nolan Yonkman.
The Panthers added two more players on Saturday, signing right winger Matt Bradley to a two-year contract and center Greg Rallo to a one-year deal.
Jovanovski joins a corps of defensemen that was bolstered at the draft by the trade for speedy Brian Campbell. Jovanovski spent his first 3½ seasons in Florida before being shipped to Vancouver in the multiplayer trade involving Pavel Bure.
Jovanovski, who made three All-Star appearances with the Canucks and two with the Phoenix Coyotes, left Florida as a player teeming with potential. He returns as an established veteran.
"I'm excited to come back to Florida," Jovanovski said. "The first years of my career were great. Then getting traded out of there and to go somewhere else was tough on me and the family when it happened.
"A lot of things worked out for the good while I was playing elsewhere, but it's good to be back in Florida. With the moves Dale is making, the guys that they're adding, it shows great promise for the organization," he said.
The acquisition of Versteeg reunited Tallon with another player he brought to Chicago and one who helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010. Versteeg scored 21 goals while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Flyers last season.
Upshall was a 22-goal scorer while splitting time between the Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets. Fleischmann was limited to 45 games last year because of a blood clot in his chest, but he has been cleared to play. He scored 23 goals for the Washington Capitals two seasons ago.
"I don't think what we did today was add any type of a superstar player, but I think that all of these players have the ability to contribute offensively and make us a tough team to play against," said assistant GM Mike Santos. "We'll be able to roll four lines and probably be able to score with all four lines. That's something we haven't been able to do here in a long time."
Despite the flurry of activity on Friday, Tallon said the reshaping of the Florida roster wasn't done.
"We've got a lot of work to do still," he said. "We're not anywhere near where we need to be, but thank god we're not where we used to be."
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