The biggest news the Florida Panthers made around last March’s trade deadline was re-acquiring goalie Roberto Luongo.
Overlooked was that Florida had locked in leading goal scorer Brad Boyes with a two-year contract extension.
One reason Boyes decided to stay with the Panthers on a long-term basis was their decision to make a big deal like that happen. Boyes liked the direction general manager Dale Tallon was taking the Panthers and dived in.
“We’re not standing pat, it’s not a rebuild,” Boyes said that day in Boston.
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“We’re going to win some games and I think we’re going to do something really big next year. I want to be part of this.”
Boyes originally came to the Panthers last training camp on a tryout basis, hauling his equipment into the training facility one day and joining practice.
After an impressive camp, the Panthers signed Boyes to a one-year contract before signing him to another one in March.
This training camp has been a bit different for Boyes as there is no question he’s a big part of the team.
“I’ve been down here for a few weeks now instead of scrambling around like last year,” Boyes said.
“I’m not stuck in a hotel anymore so I’m more settled. It’s nice to come down and see the guys I played with last year so there’s camaraderie there. Coming into the year, this has been easier. I’m more comfortable in this setting that I was last year.”
Boyes had a strong year for the Panthers last season, scoring 21 goals in 78 games — his biggest goal output since scoring 33 for St. Louis in 2007-08.
The Panthers were one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL last season so Boyes likely will have to carry a lot of the scoring load again this season. He doesn’t mind the pressure.
“I understand that. Whether we have five 50-goal scorers or one 20-goal scorer, I have to do what I do,” Boyes said.
“I understand that’s my role and I have to do more whether I’m looked at to score more than others or not. If we need a goal, I want to be the guy to be out there to get it.”
Shane O’Brien is the only player in camp this year on a tryout and is trying to be one of the seven defensemen Florida likely opens the season with.
O’Brien got off to a good start in Wednesday’s preseason opener, scoring Florida’s opening goal in what eventually became a 4-3 shootout loss to Dallas.
O’Brien scored off a feed from longtime friend Scottie Upshall — whose house he’s crashing at during training camp.
“I’m not known for my goal-scoring but that was just a great pass from Upshall,” said O’Brien, an eight-year NHL veteran who didn’t get along with Calgary coach Bob Hartley last year and spent the second half of last season in the minors.
“I jumped in the play and he saw me and I shot it as hard as I could and it went post and in. I’d be lying if I said scoring didn’t help me but I know my role in this league; it’s to play good, hard defense. If I can chip in offensively, that’s just a bonus.”
▪ The Panthers made their second cut of training camp Thursday by sending forward Jayce Hawryluk back to his Canadian junior team.
Hawryluk, 18, was a second-round pick by the Panthers in 2014 and logged 11:36 of ice time Wednesday.
Florida is expected to make a rash of cuts following Saturday’s preseason double-header in Nashville. Florida’s AHL team in San Antonio opens camp Sunday night with physicals Monday.
▪ Friday: Practice at Coral Springs IceDen, 11 a.m.
▪ Saturday: Preseason double-header at Nashville, 4 & 8 p.m.
▪ Monday: Preseason at Dallas, 8 p.m.