The Florida Panthers signed 2014 first overall pick Aaron Ekblad to a three-year entry level contract on Wednesday.
Ekblad was named the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) most outstanding defenseman during the 2013-2014 season, ranking first among the league’s blueliners with 23 goals and tied for fifth with 53 points (23-30-53). The 6-foot-3, 213-pound defenseman became just the third player in his 18-year-old birth year to earn the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman honor in the past 20 years. The Belle River, Ontario, native is expected to crack the Panthers opening day roster and should be an immediate fantasy contributor.
The Panthers and Jimmy Hayes avoid arbitration by minutes and agree to terms on a one-year, one-way deal.
After coming over from the Blackhawks, Hayes posted 11 goals and seven assists (18 points) in 53 games with the Panthers last season. Hayes will fight for a spot in the Panthers bottom-6 that has become increasingly crowded after a number of offseason signings.
The Panthers have signed restricted free-agent Dmitri Kulikov to a three-year, $13 million deal.
Kulikov, 23, had a career-high eight goals (19 points) but a career-worst minus-26 rating in 81 games with the Panthers in 2013-14. Kulikov did have solid possession numbers (51.2 CF%) for the second straight year and he'll be just 24-years-old in October so he should continue to improve his NHL game this season.
The Panthers signed restricted free-agent Brandon Pirri to a two-year deal worth $1.85 million.
After being acquired from the Blackhawks in March, Pirri, 23, recorded seven goals and seven assists (14 points) in 21 games with the Panthers. Florida added a number of forwards this offseason, so it remains to be seen where Pirri will fall in their lineup.
The Panthers have signed restricted free agent Erik Gudbranson to a two-year contract.
Gudbranson, 22, had just nine points (3G / 6A) and a minus-7 rating in 65 games with the Panthers last season. While those numbers don't jump off the board at you, he led the Panthers in PIMs (114), hits (158) and was fifth in blocked shots (91). He put up decent offensive numbers in juniors, but has yet to show he can score consistently in the NHL.
The Panthers signed Derek MacKenzie to a three-year $3.9 million dollar contract.
MacKenzie scored nine goals and added nine assists (18 points) in 71 games with the Blue Jackets last season. D-MacK provides the Panthers with some depth at centre; he won 51.5% of his face-offs in 2013-14.
The Panthers have signed Willie Mitchell to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million.
Mitchell had a strong year, scoring 12 points (1G / 11A) in 76 regular season games, but it was his postseason that drew a lot of attention. He was sensational en route to winning the Stanley Cup and has been rewarded with $4.25 million per year. He is reunited with Roberto Luongo, who he played with during his time in Vancouver.
The Panthers have signed Al Montoya to a two-year deal worth $2.1 million.
Montoya, 29, went 13-8-3 with a 2.30 GAA and .920 SV% with the Jets last season. Ondrej Pavelec struggled, so Montoya was leaned on heavily at times, and he played very well. He will assume the back-up role behind Roberto Luongo in Florida.
The Panthers have signed Dave Bolland to a five-year deal worth $27.5 million.
Bolland, 28, had a forgettable one-season in Toronto. Unfortunately, he suffered a severed Achilles tendon which limited him to just 23 games. After one year with the Leafs he hit the free-agent market and signed with the Panthers where he should find himself as a third-line centre behind Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad.
Jussi Jokinen has signed a four-year deal worth $16 million with the Florida Panthers.
Jokinen, 31, had 57 points (21G / 37A) in 81 games playing on a line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal (when healthy). He loses the chance to play with Malkin, but he goes to a Panthers team with some young but very skilled centres like Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov.
Mitchell (upper-body) will be back in the Kings lineup for game 1 vs. the Blackhawks.
Mitchell has not played since game six of the first round because of an upper-body ailment, but will be back this afternoon in Chicago. Mitchell will replace Matt Greene on the Kings' blueline and is expected to skate with Alec Martinez.
Mitchell has been out since game 6 of the first round and that could mark his last game of the season if the Kings are bounced from the playoffs tonight. Should the Kings move on, Mitchell has a chance to play in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
Mitchell (lower-body) is on the ice for the Kings' morning skate.
Mitchell has missed the last seven games with a lower-body injury that he suffered in game 6 vs. the Sharks. We don't expect that head coach Darryl Sutter will reveal his status for game seven, but consider him a game-time decision.
Mitchell (lower-body) is out for game 6 in Los Angeles.
Mitchell skated on Tuesday, but is not on the ice for the Kings' gameday skate this morning. He has not played since game 6 of the first round, and won't return tonight as the Kings look to keep their season alive. Matt Greene will stay in the lineup with Mitchell still sidelined.