LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Erik Gudbranson, drafted third overall by the Florida Panthers is interviewed during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
After much scuttlebutt over supposed rifts between the Florida Panthers and 2010 third-overall pick Erik Gudbranson, many observers were concerned a deal would never be reached. Well folks, throw those concerns in the trash. The Panthers signed Gudbranson today to an entry level contract on the final day of the 2011 Development Camp. The towering young defenseman turned in yet another solid development camp performance, and seems poised and ready to compete for a starting job on the Panthers this upcoming season. He'll still have to perform well in training camp, but all the folks who got to witness him at development camp agree: he looks pretty darn ready to be a fixture on the Florida blueline for a long time.
The Panthers have a pretty crowded stable of NHL-caliber defensemen already: Brian Campbell, Keaton Ellerby, Jason Garrison, Ed Jovanovski, Dmitry Kulikov, and Mike Weaver. If Gudbranson does crack the starting lineup this season, it will be interesting to see which of the current starters will be either in the press box or elsewhere. What is very important to note, though, is that the level of competition for jobs on this team is higher than it has been in recent memory, and players will have to perform all season long if they wish to stick around. Surely that makes Kevin Dineen a very happy coach indeed.
Best of luck to Erik and congratulations!