The Panthers weren’t as busy at the onset of the free agency market opening Sunday afternoon as they were last season — although no one expected them to be.
Things were slow for much of the day as the biggest free agents on the market, not including Florida’s Jason Garrison, remain out there going into Day 2 on Monday.
The Panthers did make some moves. Florida signed goalie Scott Clemmensen to a two-year contract before he could become an unrestricted free agent at noon. The Panthers also added veteran defenseman Filip Kuba and bottom-six forward George Parros.
Florida didn’t improve its offense Sunday, something general manager Dale Tallon said he hopes to address as the summer rolls on — and perhaps as early as Monday. Once top free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise sign, the market should open up.
“We made solid hockey moves with guys who want to come here,” said Tallon, who signed an unprecedented eight players on the first day of free agency last summer. “We’re still not done, have a few things in the fryer right now and are waiting for some guys to get back to us. This is a work in progress. We’re moving forward.”
Florida replaced Garrison by signing Kuba to a two-year deal worth $8 million. It’s believed the Panthers were offering Garrison — a free agent who scored a career-high 16 goals last season — around $4 million per season.
Garrison, from British Columbia, signed a six-year deal with Vancouver worth $4.6 million per season.
“Based on the numbers, they are at and the numbers we are at, we are happy with Filip,” Tallon said of Garrison. “We kept our solid defense in place with his acquisition.”
Kuba, 35, was drafted by the Panthers in 1995 and played in 18 games for Florida from 1998-99. He’s played in 776 since for Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Ottawa. Last year, paired with Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, Kuba had 32 points off six goals and was a team-best plus-26 in 73 games.
Clemmensen, who turns 35 this month, just completed a three-year deal with the Panthers. Financial terms were not available; Clemmensen made $1.5 million last season on a contract that averaged $1.2 million.
Florida has both of last year’s goalies under contract as Jose Theodore is signed for one more season. The Panthers are said to still be in the running for Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo — Florida’s goalie from 2000 to ’06 who still lives in Parkland — and reportedly inquired about New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur.
“It’s been fun, I’ve really enjoyed my time in South Florida,” said Clemmensen, who has made 70 of his 124 career starts with the Panthers. “I want to be a Panther. I’m very excited about it. Florida was on the top of my destination list. Talks were always positive. It’s just nice to get it done.”
The Panthers’ final big move of Sunday was signing Parros away from Anaheim to replace Matt Bradley. Florida officially bought out Bradley’s final year on Saturday. Bradley suffered a season-ending concussion in February, coincidentally, after missing on a full-speed check of Parros and going head-first into the stanchion by the Panthers bench.
Parros is known for his thick mustache (which has its own Facebook page) and tough play. He said he saw how Florida coach Kevin Dineen used players such as Krys Barch and Bradley last season and figured he will get more playing time with the Panthers.
“They had a great season last year and have great management. I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Parros, who played in just 46 games last year because of various injuries and being scratched for 11 of Anaheim’s final 16 games.
“Being out west for so long, you don’t see that division a whole lot. But this past year, Florida impressed a lot of people. They were on everyone’s radar. We all saw that. The guys out west took notice.”
Although Florida kept Clemmensen around, it lost out on Mikael Samuelsson. The Panthers acquired Samuelsson in the David Booth deal with Vancouver last October; Samuelsson missed a big chunk of the season with various injuries (sports hernia, concussion) but played strong down the stretch and was a key veteran leader during the postseason.
The Panthers made an offer to Samuelsson to stay, yet Sunday afternoon he returned to Detroit — where he won the Cup in 2008 — and signed a two-year deal worth $6 million. “We tried and were in the mix,’’ Tallon said.