When Ed Jovanovski came into the locker room after Friday morning’s practice, an issue of The Hockey News from 1994 was plastered on the team’s dry erase board.
Jovanovski, then just two days past his 18th birthday, was featured on the cover squeezing an orange — celebrated by the magazine as the top pick of the 1994 NHL Draft by the Panthers.
Now 36, Jovanovski has come far since that photo was taken.
On Friday, he was named captain of the team that drafted him all those years ago.
“I think it’s every kid’s dream at some point to captain a team,” said Jovanovski, who becomes Florida’s seventh captain in franchise history and first since Bryan McCabe was traded to the Rangers in 2011.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be an assistant captain throughout my career. To be a captain here is special. This is the team that drafted me. I began my career here. This is the team I’m looking to finish with.”
Florida played without a captain last season as coach Kevin Dineen went with four alternate captains in Jovanovski, Stephen Weiss, Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky. Dineen said he chose Jovanovski over Weiss. Campbell and Weiss will serve as assistant captains.
Dineen announced the captaincy when he gathered the team around him at the end of Friday’s workout at BB&T Center. Jovanovski’s teammates banged their sticks on the ice afterward and surrounded him to offer their congratulations.
“We’re definitely happy for Jovo. He deserves it,” Weiss said.
The Panthers signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a two-year deal and will likely use him in Saturday’s home opener.
Dineen said he’s not worried about Kulikov’s physical shape, adding that Kulikov knows the Florida system well enough that he can be thrown into game action at a moment’s notice.
“I’m taking every option I have to help us win,” Dineen said.
Mike Weaver sustained a slight concussion at Wednesday’s scrimmage and is questionable for Saturday, Dineen said. That allowed Mike Caruso to make the 23-man roster to start the season. Rookie Alex Petrovic was sent back to AHL San Antonio.
“I’ve been thinking about this day for a long time,” said Caruso, who is in his fifth year within the Panthers organization but has yet to make his NHL debut. “... I’ve felt ready for this. It’s just a matter of getting my foot in the door.”
• Center Mike Santorelli cleared waivers Friday and could be in the lineup against the Hurricanes. Winger Kris Versteeg left the ice during Friday’s practice and is questionable.
Florida did lose winger James Wright — who has a one-way deal for next season — to Winnipeg as the Jets claimed him off waivers. The Panthers had planned to assign Wright to AHL San Antonio.
• Veteran winger Alex Kovalev signed a one-year deal with the Panthers worth around $600,000 after being prorated because of the lockout. Kovalev spent last season in the KHL after splitting the 2010-11 season with Ottawa and Pittsburgh.
Kovalev, 39, is the last remaining active player from the 1994 Stanley Cup champion Rangers.
“It’s been a long time. I didn’t think I would get another chance to play in the NHL after I left for Russia,” Kovalev said. “I kept my hopes alive, and this is where I want to finish my career. I’m glad this organization gave me a chance.’’