Kris Versteeg avoids arbitration, signs four-year deal

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 24: Kris Versteeg #32 of the Florida Panthers reacts against the New Jersey Devils in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on April 24, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Florida Panthers announced this morning that forward Kris Versteeg has signed a four year deal. Versteeg, a restricted free agent, had been scheduled for an arbitration hearing this afternoon. Versteeg, in his first season with the Panthers, was third in points (54) and second in goals (23), beating his previous best season, with the 2008-2009 Blackhawks, by one goal. That previous best season was also in a contract year. Astute observers will note that Versteeg was one of several Blackhawks restricted free agents who were left unqualified by the team due to the paperwork not being filed on time in the league office, a situation for which former Blackhawks and current Panthers GM Dale Tallon took the fall and was relieved of his duties.

Versteeg came to the Panthers via the Philadelphia Flyers, who traded him for a second and a third round pick shortly after signing Jaromir Jagr in summer 2011. He had been traded twice already that year, first from the Blackhawks to the Maple Leafs in the summer and from the Leafs to the Flyers in February. He was a large part of the Panthers success early on last season and he and his linemates Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss were the only Panthers players to score 20 or more goals last season. He struggled later in season, partially due to injuries and partially due to other teams keying in defensively on what was clearly the best line on the team.

Versteeg's signing gives the Panthers six forwards, including prospect Jonathan Huberdeau, signed through 2015. Stephen Weiss will be an unrestricted free agent in 2013.

Financial terms were not released, as per team policy but will be added to this article when available. TSN's Darren Dreger is reporting that the contract is for $4.4 million a year over the four years.

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