The Florida Panthers said goodbye to veteran center Stephen Weiss, as he chose to join the Detroit Red Wings, re-upped blossoming forward Shawn Matthias to a two-year deal, signed free agent forwards Joey Crabb and Jesse Winchester along with defenseman Mike Mottau and also shipped tough guy George Parros to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Philippe Lefebrve and a 7th-round pick in 2014 as the NHL's annual free agent feeding frenzy began on Friday.
The Cats first took care of their own, re-signing restricted free agent forward Shawn Matthias to a two-year, $3.5 million deal. Matthias will have a cap hit of $1.75 million the next two seasons.
Last season, the 25-year-old Matthias notched a career-high 14 goals while playing in all 48 games. He will be looking to climb up the depth chart and replace the departed Weiss as the team's first line center.
Checking forward Joey Crabb was signed to a one way, two-year $1.2 million deal. Crabb will have a cap hit of $600K the next two seasons.
Crabb appeared in 26 games with the Washington Capitals last season and scored two goals. He will likely fill the energy-type role of Jack Skille, who the Panthers chose to part ways with earlier in the week.
Center Jesse Winchester, who has 233 games of NHL experience (11G/41A), all with the Ottawa Senators, spent last season with Jokerit in Finland. The Panthers inked Winchester to a one year, two-way deal. He likely be ticketed for the San Antonio Rampage but could be in the mix for fourth line duty with the Cats.
Also signed to a one year, two-way deal was veteran defenseman Mike Mottau. Mottau spilt time between the San Antonio Rampage and the Toronto Marlies of the AHL last season. Mottau, who has totaled 313 career NHL games, is likely an insurance policy in case some of the Panthers young blue line prospects aren't quite ready for big league duty yet.
The Panthers finished the day by correcting another misstep from last season, the first being the buyout of Filip Kuba, by trading George Parros to Montreal for prospect forward Philippe Lefebreve and the 7th-round draft pick in 2014 that the Panthers dealt to the Canadiens during Sunday's Entry Draft for the pick that the Cats used to choose defender MacKenzie Weegar.
Parros played 39 games with the Panthers last season, scoring one goal and one assist while posting 57 PIM. The toughness factor many expected to see from Parros was missing in most of his appearances.
Lefebreve, who Montreal signed in 2009 as an undrafted free agent, is in the final year of his ELC and has yet to see any NHL action. Last season, he scored 4 goals and added 3 assists in 23 AHL games with the Hamilton Bulldogs and also spent some time with ECHL Wheeling.