The fight to make the Florida Panthers’ opening night roster got a little tougher for some of the team’s younger players Friday after veteran winger Martin Havlat accepted the team’s training camp invitation.
Havlat, 34, joins former Panthers leading goal-scorer David Booth as veteran forwards in camp on professional tryouts. Havlat has appeared in 788 NHL games and has 241 goals and 593 points. He was limited to 40 games with New Jersey last season and ended up with only 14 points. The Panthers open training camp next Friday.
“They both wanted to come here and show their wares,’’ general manager Dale Tallon said. “They have history and knowledge. You never know about injuries, and we have a lot of young guys. If they’re not ready, that’s fine. We have protection. It’s all good. Competition doesn’t hurt anyone. Everyone has to work for a job. We’re not just going to give them to the kids because they’re kids.”
The Panthers’ rookie camp opened Friday, with AHL Portland (Maine) coach Tom Rowe running things. Florida will participate in a rookie tournament hosted by the Tampa Bay Lightning starting Saturday. The Panthers open against Washington at 3 p.m. at Germain Arena in Estero. The tournament continues through Tuesday.
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“We have a lot of good prospects,’’ Rowe said. “They have to come in prepared mentally and physically to earn and take some jobs.”