In through the cat door: Panthers add in free agency
Bill Zito adds organizational depth on busy Wednesday
The Florida Panthers added a quintet of unrestricted free agents on Wednesday, signing forwards Colin White and Nick Cousins, defensemen Marc Staal and Anthony Bitetto and goaltender Alex Lyon.
General manager Bill Zito also inked undrafted defenseman Nathan Staios to an entry-level deal and signed 37-year-old forward Eric Staal to a professional try-out.
White signed a one-year deal worth $1.2 million. He is a former first round pick of the Ottawa Senators, selected with the 21st pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The 25-year-old appeared in 24 games with the Senators last season and produced three goals and 10 points. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound native of Boston, MA has amassed 98 points (36G/62A) over 224 career NHL games with Ottawa from 2016-17 to 2021-22. He put up a career-high 14 goals and 27 assist in 71 games during the 2018-19 campaign.
Cousins agreed to terms on a two-year contract with an AAV of $1.1 million. The 28-year-old skated in 68 games with the Nashville Predators in 2021-22, totaling nine goals and 22 points. The 5-foot-11, 192-pound native of Belleville, Ontario has played in 444 career NHL games with Nashville (2020-21 to 2021-22), the Vegas Golden Knights (2019-20), the Montreal Canadiens (2019-20), the Arizona Coyotes (2017-18 to 2018-19) and Philadelphia Flyers (2014-15 to 2016-17), amassing 138 points (55/G83A).
Marc Staal signed a one-year deal worth $750K. Staal, 35, suited up in 71 games with the Detroit Red Wings in 2021-22, logging three goals and 16 points (3-13-16). He ranked second among Red Wings blueliners with 94 hits. The 6-foot-4, 208-pound native of Thunder Bay, Ontario is a veteran of 1,019 NHL games with Detroit (2020-21 to 2021-22) and the New York Rangers (2007-08 to 2019-20). He is one of only 10 defensemen who have skated in over 1,000 NHL games since 2007-08 and 107 Stanley Cup Playoff games on his resume.
Bitetto signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level and $275K at the minor-league level. The 31-year-old split 2021-22 between the Hartford Wolf Pack and San Jose Barracuda in the American League, producing a combined 17 points in 53 contests. Bitetto is a depth addition for the Cats and will add veteran leadership to the Charlotte Checkers blue line.
Signing a one-year, two-way deal to take over as the number three goalie on the depth chart, Lyon, 29, appeared in two games with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021-22, producing a 1-0-1 record and 2.93 goals against average. Over 24 career NHL games with Carolina (2021-22) and Philadelphia (2017-18 to 2020-21), Lyon has posted a 7-7-3 record He appeared in 30 AHL games the Chicago Wolves, in 2021-22 posting a 18-7-3 record, 2.16 GAA nd a .912 save percentage as the club secured both the regular season championship and Calder Cup. In the postseason, Lyon was 9-3 and registered a .923 save percentage over 12 postseason appearances. Following the regular season, he was named the recipient of the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award, which is presented annually to the goaltender(s) on the team which allows the fewest goals per game.
Currently participating in development camp, Staios agreed to terms on a three-year, entry-level contract The 21-year-old skated in 59 Ontario Hockey League games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2021-22, setting a club record and leading all OHL defensemen with 66 points (15G/51A). Following the regular season, Staios was named the CHL Defenseman of the Year and earned the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenseman. In the 2021-22 postseason, Staios recorded nine points over 13 games, helping Hamilton capture the OHL championship.
Eric Staal has joined the Cats on a professional try-out and will try to a permanent spot during training camp. The eldest of the three Staal brothers last played NHL hockey with the Montreal in 2020-21. Staal was the captain of the Canadian men’s national team during the 2022 Beijing Olympics. A member of the Triple Gold club with a Stanley Cup (2006), World Championship gold (2007) and Olympic gold (2010), he has 441 goals and 1,034 points in 1,293 career NHL games split between the Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild, Buffalo Sabres, and Canadiens.
Grade Bill Zito’s performance on Wedneday