The Panthers came to term with one of their restricted free agents Thursday, signing defenseman Erik Gudbranson to a two-year deal.
Gudbranson, 22, just completed his third NHL season after being the third overall pick of the 2010 draft.
“I’m very fortunate to have this deal, to be with the team for the next two years,” Gudbranson said from his home in Canada on Thursday.
“That’s very exciting with the moves we made summer, the players we brought in are all quality individuals. It’ll be exciting to get the ball rolling in the right direction. Obviously this is a short-term deal but it works out well for both sides.”
General manager Dale Tallon could have offered Gudbranson a longer deal, but said Thursday that the two-year contract worked out best.
With Florida retaining Gudbranson’s rights when this new pact expires following the 2015-16 season, this “bridge” contract allows the team flexibility as it hopes Gudbranson takes the next step in his development. In three seasons with the Panthers, Gudbranson has scored five goals with 16 assists in 169 games.
“He’s excited and we’re excited,” Tallon said. “He’s going to grow and get better. It’s all positive. I’ve said this time and time before, but it takes 300 games to become a good NHL defenseman. Historically, that’s the number. We’re getting close to that number with [Gudbranson]. It’s a tough position, tough to learn. But now he has more support.”
Tallon still has plenty of work to do with his remaining restricted free agents. Florida has tendered offers to the likes of Dmitry Kulikov, Brandon Pirri and Dylan Olsen.
Winger Jimmy Hayes has elected to take the Panthers to arbitration to decide his deal although the two sides could come to terms before his scheduled hearing July 29.