Panthers Finalize Opening Night Roster

The Florida Panthers finalized their 2011-12 Opening Night roster this afternoon, waiving defenseman Michael Kostka and sending forward Steven Reinprect to the San Antonio Rampage, the Panthers AHL affiliate. If he clears, Kostka will also head to the home of the Alamo.

Kostka, the 25-year-old from Etobicoke, Ontario, was signed as a free agent this offseason. He was a member of the Panthers former AHL squad, the Rochester Americans, last season. In Rochester he had a breakout year scoring 16 goals and adding 38 assists. He previously had spent two years under now Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen with the Portland Pirates, and while he didn’t put up the numbers, Dineen and his family enjoyed the kid’s hard work.

“I don’t know if I’m getting fed tonight. He was one of my wife’s favorites from Maine,” Dineen joked.

Meanwhile, Reinprect just can’t seem to reproduce the 2009-10 season that quickly made him a fan favorite. That season he played in all 82 games, scoring 16 goals and adding 22 assists. Midway through last season, however, he was loaned to German club Adler-Mannheim. General Manager Dale Tallon has said that he believes Reinprect should get an NHL job, and it is inevitable that he will be placed on re-entry waivers in the near future. Should a team claim him, they would split the $2 Million salary he is owed with the Panthers.

The Panthers will carry 22 players. That breaks down as 20 skaters, with 13 forwards and seven defensemen, as well as two goalies. Forward Mike Santorelli and goalie Scott Clemmensen will begin the season injured and will not count towards the roster. Below is the 2011-12 opening day roster with last season’s stats and a quick word on each of the players.

2011-12 Florida Panthers Roster

# NAME POS 2010-11 Stats

FORWARDS

9 Stephen Weiss C 76 gm 21 G-28 A-49 P, 49 PIM
He has been a Panther his whole career. A team leader, Weiss will lead the “New” Panthers towards their goal of a Stanley Cup.

10 David Booth LW 82 23-17-40, 26
Booth is a key contributor to this team, as long as he is healthy. He should be on the Panthers #1 or #2 line. The fan favorite should light the lamp many times this year.

12 Jack Skille RW 62 8-11-19, 29
Skille has been a quiet guy to watch. A “Dale Tallon Special”, he was drafted in the first round in 2005, but hasn’t seemed to contribute as he was projected to. Maybe this is his year?

13 Mike Santorelli* C 82 20-21-41, 20
Santorelli started all 82 games last season. He will not this year, but he is close. He has been watching practice without a sling, after a shoulder injury last week. The 25-year-old is looking to improve over his breakout NHL season in 2010-11.

14 Tomáš Fleischmann LW 45 12-19-31, 18
Fleischmann should be a familiar name to Panthers fans. The 27-year-old played five-and-a-half seasons with the Washington Capitals. He was traded mid-season last year to the Colorado Avalanche but was shut down due to a Pulmonary embolism. He says he has gotten the problem fixed and is healthy and ready to go. Assuming his health holds up, look for a 20+ goal scorer.

18 Shawn Matthias C 51 6-10-16, 16
Matthias is a young fringe player who was forced into a major role on the Panthers. Now, with depth on the roster and a new two-year contract in his pocket, he will be in a less pressured situation and can play to his full potential. Whether he sees the bulk of his playing time in Florida or San Antonio, however, is still up in the air.

19 Scottie Upshall LW 82 22-12-34, 52
Upshall was the first signee on the Panthers free agent splash. Although the signing of Ed Jovanovski and acquisition of Brian Campbell made him somewhat of an afterthought, Upshall will be a major part of the Panthers lineup. He has spent parts of the previous eight seasons with four NHL clubs, including a deadline deal that sent him from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Columbus Blue Jackets last season. He signed a long term contract with the Panthers and the stability should help him excel in Sunrise.

20 Sean Bergenheim LW 80 14-15-29, 56
Bergenheim is most known for his 2011 playoff run with the Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring nine goals in 16 games. He may not have those numbers in the 2011-12 regular season, but he will be a key role player for the club. He can be physical when he has to be and will battle for the puck. Look for him to put up another double digit assist number this season.

22 Matt Bradley RW 61 4-7-11, 68
Bradley is an enforcer, and was a fan favorite with the Washington Capitals. He brings character to the locker room and the bench, and will protect his teammates. He’s not going to score too many goals (his career high is 10 in the 2009-10 season), but he can score and plays solid hockey when asked to. On a personal note, he shares a June 13 birthday with me, so he’s good in my book!

24 Ryan Carter C 62 3-6-9, 66
Carter hopped, skipped, and jumped across the country in the 2010-11 season. He started off in Anaheim, where he scored a goal in 18 games. He then struggled in 32 games with Carolina before being shipped to the Panthers in the Corey Stillman deal on February 24. Carter is one of the only “try out” Panthers left from the final month last year, when the Panthers brought in several young players hoping to find some complimentary talent. The White Bear Lake, MN native should be on the lookout as he is on the short list to head to San Antonio as soon as Santorelli returns from injury.

32 Kris Versteeg RW 80 21-25-46, 53
The 25-year-old already has a Stanley Cup under his belt, with (surprise, surprise) the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks. Tallon traded for him in the offseason, and was able to acquire him cheap. He sent two mid-round selections in future drafts to Philadelphia, where Versteeg had called home for the final 27 games of the 2010-11 season, and a few playoff games. Versteeg should be another key piece in the lineup. Expect him to be a 25-goal plus scorer this season.

57 Marcel Goc C 51 9-15-24, 6
I am going to be flat out honest and tell you that Goc is somewhat of a mystery to me. However, looking at his numbers, Goc appears to be a good complimentary player with six years of NHL playing experience.

63 Evgeny Dadonov RW 36 8-9-17, 14
The 22-year-old Russian is the youngest player on the roster. He has spent the past two seasons bouncing between the Panthers and their then-AHL affiliate the Rochester Americans. He will have to contribute early and often if he wishes to stay with the Panthers, and could be another candidate to head to San Antonio early in the season.

82 Tomas Kopecky RW 81 15-27-42, 60
Kopecky can help offensively and defensively. The 6’ 3” 203 pound Slovanian is a physical presence, but has double digit goals in each of the past two seasons. Also, in common with most of the new acquisitions, Kopecky brings four playoff seasons experience with him, and already has his name alongside Versteeg’s on the 2010 Stanley Cup.

DEFENSEMEN

4 Keaton Ellerby D 54 2-10-12, 22
The Panthers seem to have had much more success developing defensemen over the past few years. Ellerby, the 10th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, has spent his entire professional career in the Panthers organization. He played the majority of the 2010-11 season with the Panthers and should spend the entire 2011-12 season in Sunrise.

7 Dmitry Kulikov D 72 6-20-26, 45
Kulikov has been an interesting player for the Panthers. Highly touted after being selected with the 14th overall pick in 2009 by Florida, he immediately made an impact. Kulikov has bulked up and become more physical over the past two seasons, and is now seen as a bit more of a two-way defenseman, or a threat at the point and a guy who can land a good check or two. Look for him to approach the 10 goal plateau this season.

43 Mike Weaver D 82 2-11-13, 34
Weaver burst on the South Florida scene and ended up playing all 82 games in 2010-11. Quietly, Weaver has played parts of 8 teams, starting in 2001-02 with the Thrashers. Perhaps quietly is a good adjective because he really hasn’t done too much. Weaver has six goals over those eight seasons, and only 168 penalty minutes. He is a solid checker, though and always seemed to get into the play last season. Let’s see what he can do this time around.

44 Eric Gudbranson D 44 12-22-34, 105 (OHL)
Gudbranson will either be boom or bust, and by all accounts he should be a boom. Although he has been connected with an “attitude problem” because of his physicality at the OHL level (he was suspended twice), he should fit in perfectly and be a star at the NHL level. He is physical, he gets the puck in front to the net, and he can score from the point. Look for 20-30 assists and a handful of goals, along with potentially hundreds of penalty minutes. As long as he doesn’t fear the older competition, Gudbranson will have a superb rookie campaign.

51 Brian Campbell D 65 5-22-27, 6
Campbell was advertised to be the focal point of the 2011 season. So, you envision a 6’ 5” 250 pound heavy hitting defenseman walk into the press conference after signing a five-year contract worth over $35 million. Instead walked in a 5’ 10” 189 pound red-headed kid (well, as much of a kid as a 32 year old could be), who scored just five goals in the 2010-11 season. The truth is that Campbell is a leader and he wants to bring Dale Tallon, the one man who believed in him, a second Cup. He wants to play for Florida, and he will be productive here. Don’t look for a double digit goal scorer, but look for a good veteran defenseman who the younger guys look up to.

52 Jason Garrison D 73 5-13-18, 26
While he hasn’t put up a 20 goal season since his junior days, Garrison is a good complimentary defenseman. He will pair well with an older veteran like Campbell and Ed Jovanovski. Garrison was signed as a free agent in 2008 after attending the University of Minnesota-Duluth and has been in he Panthers organization ever since. He will be a solid defenseman in the 2011-12 season.

55 Ed Jovanovski D 50 5-9-14, 39
Jovo-Cop is back! In his second stint with the Panthers, he looks to recreate the magic that surrounded the team in his 1995-96 rookie year. The first overall pick by the Panthers in 1994 also has unfinished business from that season, and will take it upon himself to bring a Cup to South Florida.

GOALIES

25 Jacob Markström G 37 GM 16 W-20 L-2 OT/SO .907 SV% 2.98 GAA (Rochester)
Markström appeared in one game for the Panthers as an emergency call-up, but let’s not count that. The 21-year-old “goalie of the future” had a great season with Rochester, despite playing on a team plagued by injuries and call-ups. He may get a chance to start with the Panthers if Scott Clemmensen, who was the projected starter, stays out with injuries long-term. José Théodore struggled throughout training camp but will be tabbed starter. However, if the Panthers get out to a slow start, look for Markström to get the nod.

30 Scott Clemmensen* G 31 8-11-7 .911 2.62
Clemmensen is a career backup who was finally about to get his starting chance before having knee surgery. He is expected to return in late October, but look for him and Théodore to platoon once he returns, and look for Markström to get starting time in San Antonio.

60 José Théodore G 32 15-11-3 .916 2.71
The 2002 Vezina and Hart Memorial Trophy winner continues his path to dominance, but his latest chapter has proven to be rocky already. He allowed 12 goals over two starts with the Panthers this preseason. Still, as the veteran, and with Scott Clemmensen out, Théodore will be counted on to start, at least for now. His job is on the line, however, as the Panthers will look for a fast start to the season. The Panthers hope the Théodore of old will re-appear on Opening Night, Saturday.

NOTES: Rookies in italics, injured reserve noted with an asterisk (*).

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