Moments after being taken by the Panthers with the second pick in the NHL Draft last month, Aleksander “Sasha’’ Barkov said his plan was to play in Florida this season.
Barkov took a step toward that on Monday by signing his first contract with the team, a three-year entry-level deal.
The Panthers also ended any sort of contentious negotiations it may have had with goalie Jacob Markstrom as he signed a two-year deal with the team on Monday as well.
“This is the deal that works for both sides,’’ assistant general manager Mike Santos said after announcing the Markstrom signing.
“Jacob is, obviously, still a top prospect. As a goaltender sometimes it takes a little longer to develop. I think this was the right deal for him and for us. He’s by no means the complete goaltender we hope he will be someday. But, again, he’s young.’’
Markstrom, a second-round pick in 2008, became the Panthers starting goalie last season after Scott Clemmensen struggled and Jose Theodore tore his groin March 2 in Carolina.
Markstrom went 8-14-1 in his 23 starts for the Panthers last season.
The 23-year-old goalie will have a two-way provision — allowing him to be sent back to the minors — in the first year of his contract. Markstrom gets a one-way deal in the second year.
“We were forced into that situation last year because of the injury,’’ Santos said. “He was thrown into a tough situation. Given the time he came up and all the injuries we had in the short season, I think it was difficult to expect him to come in and play to the best of his abilities.”
Santos said he expects a starting goalie to emerge during training camp and that Markstrom won’t be handed the job. That said, the Panthers apparently aren’t actively looking for another goalie to come in, although Santos said that could change.
Santos said he hasn’t spoken to Theodore, a free agent, since the end of last season. Theodore said he wanted to come back to the Panthers, but that doesn’t appear to be a likelihood. Clemmensen is signed for another season.
Markstrom wrote he was excited to sign and “can’t wait for the season to start!’’ on his Twitter account on Monday afternoon, moments after Santos broke the news of the signing.
With Barkov in the fold, the Panthers will be younger than they were at the start of last season.
Barkov is expected to not only join recent top draft picks Jonathan Huberdeau (20) and Erik Gudbranson (21) in the Panthers’ lineup, but Alex Petrovic (21) and Nick Bjugstad (20) as well.
Veterans Ed Jovanovski (hip) and Kris Versteeg (knee) are coming off surgery and are expected to miss at least the beginning of the season. Those injuries could open the door for the likes of Vincent Trocheck and Colby Robak.
After scoring 21 goals with 27 assists in 53 games in the Finnish elite league over the past two seasons, there really was nothing left for Barkov to prove in Europe. He’s going to get his chance in the NHL in a few months.
Barkov is back in his native Finland after attending the Panthers’ developmental camp last week.
Although he couldn’t participate in on-ice drills after having shoulder surgery last March, Barkov was able to assimilate himself a little better within South Florida and the organization.
Rookie camp, which Barkov is expected to participate in, will be held Sept. 4. Training camp begins Sept. 11 in Coral Springs.
“There was no sense of putting [the signing of Barkov] off,’’ Santos said. “One reason why we took him with the second overall pick is we thought he was going to have the ability to step right in. He’s played in a men’s league for the past two years.
“It’s a different situation than other top picks we’ve had recently. We thought they needed another year. We drafted [Barkov] because we feel he’s ready and able to play.”