Panthers

Florida Panthers’ spending spree continues

 

Flush with new money since the team was sold, GM Dale Tallon officially signed Brad Boyes and Tom Gilbert to one-year deals Saturday.

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Dale Tallon has made up for a slow summer in a hurry.

After the financial handcuffs were taken off with new owner Vinnie Viola in place, Tallon has been busy the past few days. On Saturday, Tallon announced the signings of forward Brad Boyes and defenseman Tom Gilbert to one-year deals.

Not long after, the Panthers reacquired forward Krys Barch in a deal with the Devils. Florida got Barch, who left the Panthers after the 2011-12 season as a free agent, and a seventh-round pick. New Jersey got forward Scott Timmins and a sixth-round pick.

“We’re trying to do the best we can in a short period of time before the season starts,” said Tallon, who signed goalie Tim Thomas on Thursday. “We’re trying to peck away at this thing, get better every day.”

Signing Boyes and Gilbert for the season wasn’t much of a surprise as both players looked solid during their training camp tryouts.

Boyes, who had 10 goals and 25 assists with the Islanders last year, said he didn’t want to look too far ahead with the Panthers and had yet to begin looking for housing in South Florida.

“It’s nice. There’s a definite sense of relief,” Boyes said before scoring Florida’s first goal in Saturday’s final preseason game against Tampa Bay.

“Now I can do all the other things to get organized, bring the family down here. I have a few days to sort some things out before the season starts.”

Yet with coach Kevin Dineen pairing Boyes — a veteran winger who has 407 points in 606 NHL games — with Kris Versteeg and Aleksander Barkov, it was apparent he would be sticking around.

“He’s a scorer and he has to play with skill players, complementary guys,” Tallon said. “Obviously we didn’t score very much last year. We need guys who can put the puck in the net and make plays. He’s one of those guys who can do that.”

Said Barkov: “I like him. He’s very friendly and is a good player. I like playing with him and Versteeg.”

The Barch deal did come as a bit of a surprise, although the Panthers have looked like they needed to get a little tougher.

Barch came to the Panthers on Dec. 11, 2011, in a deal with Dallas and ended up scoring two goals with three assists in 41 games as Florida won the Southeast Division title.

Although Barch wanted to re-up with the Panthers in 2012, things didn’t work out and he moved on to the Devils. Barch, 33, played in 22 games with no points for the Devils last year.

“He’s a hard-nosed guy who is cut from the mold of being all about the team,” Dineen said. "He was only here a short time, but he was effective. He can skate, is an aggressive guy on the forecheck and knows his role as a teammate. I’m excited to get him back.”

Barch, who has recorded 99 NHL fights, is expected to find minutes on Florida’s fourth line and his signing might have knocked Jessie Winchester or Drew Shore to the minors.

“When he was here, he played a good role for us and kept people honest,” Versteeg said. “He can score goals; I remember his breakaway goal against Ottawa. So he’s not just a tough guy. He can play out there and use his fists as well.”

Florida currently has 28 players on the active roster and has to be down to at least 23 by Monday afternoon. The Panthers are expected to place five players on the injured list to start the season, so Winchester and Shore could stick initially.

Panthers win

•  Panthers 5, Lightning 3: Florida got a pair of goals (one into an empty net) from Versteeg in the second half of the third period to snap a four-game winless streak.

Erik Gudbranson and Marcel Goc both left the game in the second period with various upper-body injuries. Dineen said both would be fine and that had this been a regular-season game, they would have returned.

Thomas gave up three goals on 22 shots as he played his first complete game of the preseason. Florida went 3-1-3 in the preseason.

“It’s a preseason game but it was important,” said Thomas, who is expected to be Florida’s opening night starter. “They are a division rival; there are some new guys on this team and we’re looking to become a team, get some confidence to win a game when we’re up in the third. We won not only with the lead, but came back after giving up one. I liked what I saw in front of me.”

Still no Jovo

Gilbert, 30, was in the lineup for Saturday’s preseason finale against Tampa Bay and was paired up with Brian Campbell. Florida is expected to start the season with seven defenseman, although captain Ed Jovanovski isn’t expected to be one of them.

Although he has been at every practice of training camp, it doesn’t appear that Jovanovski’s surgically repaired hip will allow him to be on the opening-night roster.

“He’s still rehabbing and is getting better every day,” Tallon said. “It’s a matter of when he feels he can contribute and get into the physicality of the game. It’s good to see him out there. He’s getting closer. The next three, four weeks, he should be good to go.’”

• Sean Bergenheim took part in Saturday morning’s skate but is still a few weeks away after having multiple abdominal surgeries last year.

• The Panthers will take Sunday off before returning to practice Monday. The team will practice in Coral Springs on Monday through Wednesday before leaving for Dallas. The Panthers’ season opener is Thursday night against the host Stars.

Read more Florida Panthers stories from the Miami Herald

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