The Panthers aren’t talking about who will be at training camp in the coming days, although it is shaping up to be very competitive.
Veterans Alex Kovalev and Marek Svatos have confirmed they have been invited to try out for the Panthers during training camp. Quebec sports network RDS reported Tuesday that Andrei Kostitsyn has been given the same offer. Training camp is expected to start Sunday.
The Panthers could have a few open spots as forwards Marcel Goc, Sean Bergenheim and Shawn Matthias were reportedly injured during the lockout.
Florida would have to make some roster moves, however, as the team will be at the maximum for contracts once defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is signed.
Of the three invited to camp, Kovalev is the only player to have worked with the Panthers in South Florida so far, having joined them for one of their final informal workouts in Lighthouse Point on Tuesday morning.
Kovalev looked sharp on the ice as he kept the pace and looked strong with the puck. Kovalev, 39, would likely play on Florida’s third or fourth lines and contribute on the power play if he were to be kept after an abbreviated training camp.
“His credentials speak for themselves,’’ defenseman Ed Jovanovski said of Kovalev. “He’s a 1,000-point guy who has been very good in this league and is very dangerous on the power play. Hopefully this works out for everyone.’’
Florida got good production from 38-year-old John Madden in that role last year. Madden retired after last season and took a job with the Canadiens front office.
“I want to get back in the NHL. They’re going to give me a chance, see how things go,’’ said Kovalev, who scored 16 goals in 74 games with the Senators and Penguins in 2010-11.
“No one has promised me anything. They just want me to come in, and they are hoping I make the team. I don’t know. I can’t predict anything. I’m just going to do what I’m able to do and we’ll see what happens.’’
In 1,302 NHL games, the native of Togliatti, Russia, has scored 428 goals with 596 assists. Kovalev has extensive postseason experience, having won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994. He has played in 123 postseason games and has scored 100 points.
Kovalev spent last season in Russia’s KHL but was released from his contract after sustaining a knee injury. He said the knee is fine, and he is ready to make a comeback in the NHL.
“[The injury] is all behind me,’’ Kovalev said. “That’s the most disappointing thing, feeling good and not being able to play anywhere. Finally, the season is about to start and I settle somewhere — hopefully here — in the NHL and do my thing.’’
Kostitsyn, 27, has spent most of his seven NHL seasons with the Canadiens. In 398 games with Montreal and Nashville, Kostitsyn has 222 points. He has 20 points in 37 games with Chelyabinsk Traktor of the KHL during the lockout.
Svatos, 30, has played in 344 NHL games over six seasons with Colorado and Nashville, scoring 172 points with 100 goals.
Vlad Cheremeta is a former Russian professional who has run the practices for the locked-out Panthers and coaches youth hockey in South Florida. He thinks the Panthers bringing in Kovalev is a wise move — one that will pay off handsomely.
“He is a unique player who knows what he is doing out there,’’ Cheremeta said. “He’s like a super quarterback. You put him on the power play, he’s going to score for sure. He’s an exceptional player. You don’t see brilliant hands like his very often.’’
Defenseman Erik Gudbranson was back on the ice Tuesday, although he hadn’t been medically cleared for contact because he hadn’t seen his surgeon. Gudbranson drove to Doctors Hospital in Miami after the workout but whether he was cleared or not was not known.
Gudbranson, the third overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, had shoulder surgery in September after being injured in a wakeboard accident in Canada. The Panthers suspended the second-year player without pay because his injury was non-hockey-related.