Florida Panthers sign six free agents

Panthers GM Dale Tallon signed four forwards, a goaltender and a defenseman on the first day of free agency.

07/01/2014 1:29 PM

07/01/2014 8:36 PM

Dale Tallon wasn’t as busy on the opening of the NHL’s free agency period Tuesday afternoon as he was in 2011, although it was real close.

The Panthers signed five players within the first 90 minutes of the floodgates opening and brought in six by end of the work day.

Tallon signed four forwards, a defenseman and a goalie — adding more than $17 million in payroll toward the coming season.

Not long after signing two-time Stanley Cup champion Willie Mitchell, a defenseman, from Los Angeles, Tallon said he was going to take a little break from the frenzy. “We’re going to sit back,’’ Tallon said.

The Panthers also added forwards David Bolland, Jussi Jokinen, Shawn Thornton and Derek MacKenzie as well as goalie Al Montoya.

“It was a great day for our franchise, and we exceeded expectations,’’ said Tallon, who signed seven new players on the first day of free agency in 2011 which led to the team’s first postseason berth in over a decade.

“We identified a number of players and we got them all, basically. I’ve never had that before. The guys we identified we ended up getting. We had needs we had to address.’’

A few minutes after noon, Florida made its first move of the day by signing former Carolina and Pittsburgh winger Jokinen to a four-year deal worth $4 million per season.

A solid scorer throughout his nine-year career, Jokinen — who is no relation to former Florida captain Olli Jokinen — scored 58 points for the Penguins last year. That was 19 more than Florida’s leading scorer in rookie Nick Bjugstad.

Jokinen has played in 660 games with Carolina, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh and has 149 goals with 265 assists.

“He has a lot of class, a real pro,’’ Tallon said. “He has great skills and can score. He’ll also help [Aleksander] Barkov off the ice. He wanted to come here because of Barkov and the other young players in the system. He did his homework. He knew this team inside and out.’’

The Panthers then made its biggest financial splash by signing Bolland, the former Chicago and Toronto center, to a five-year contract worth $5.5 million per season.

Bolland, whose biggest claim to fame is scoring the goal that lifted Chicago to the Cup in 2013, said he narrowed his choices to remaining in Toronto or coming south to be reunited with Tallon.

“I’m coming to a team that’s really growing and is going to be a contender,’’ said Bollard, who was drafted in 2004 by Tallon while he was the GM in Chicago.

With defensemen going fast throughout Tuesday, the Panthers signed Mitchell with their final move of the day.

Mitchell, 37, has spent the past three seasons with the Kings and was instrumental in Los Angeles winning the Cup in two of those seasons.

In 795 NHL games over 12 seasons with Minnesota, Dallas, Vancouver and Los Angeles, Mitchell has 30 goals and 135 assists. He has also played in 89 postseason games during his career.

Mitchell signed a two-year deal worth $4.25 million per season.

Aside from Bolland and Jokinen, Tallon added two other forwards in former Boston enforcer Thornton and Columbus grinder MacKenzie.

Thornton, 37, spent the past seven seasons with the Bruins but played under Tallon in Chicago earlier in his career.

“It was pretty disappointing when [Boston] said I wasn’t coming back, I’m not going to lie,’’ Thornton told Canada’s Sportsnet. “I spent a great seven years [there]. But I’ve had a few weeks to get over it. The focus then became to find somewhere I would fit and [my family] would be happy. Honestly, Florida was at the top of my list.’’

Not happy with backup goalie Dan Ellis — he went 0-5 and stopped just 84 percent of shots faced after coming over in the Tim Thomas deal with Dallas — Tallon went out and signed Montoya.

The first Cuban-American to ever play in the NHL, Montoya spent the past four years as a backup with the Islanders and Winnipeg.

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