The Panthers announced on Thursday that they signed restricted free-agent Mackenzie Weegar to a 1-year, 2-way deal.
Weegar, a 7th-round pick of the Panthers back in 2013, earned two call-ups to the big club at the tail end of last season while having a career year in the AHL.
The 23-year old right-shot defenseman posted a personal-highs in all offensive categories, including 14 goals, 22 assists, and 36 points in 60 games while representing the Springfield Thunderbirds at the AHL All-Star Game. His numbers were also tops among Springfield defensemen.
Weegar’s NHL debut on April 3rd against the Montreal Canadiens was his first of 3 games with the Panthers during which he tallied no points and averaged 17:27 of ice time.
According to Cap Friendly, the contract will earn him $625,000 in the NHL and $85,000 at the AHL level this coming season, and he’ll once again become a restricted free-agent at the year’s end.
Weegar will certainly have a shot to make the Panthers’ squad out of camp, but for now, the starting 6 appears to be set with all of last season’s defensemen – excluding Jakub Kindl who was not re-signed – ready to go.
He’ll also face competition from his AHL defense partner and fellow 2013 draft pick Ian McCoshen who had a solid rookie year with the Thunderbirds.
Either way, Weegar is a safe bet to be at the top of the Panthers’ list for call-ups on defense if and when a need arises.
“He’s very creative, he’s really good with the puck, he sees the ice well, and has a lot of skill,” said Panthers’ General Manager Dale Tallon back in 2014.
It wouldn’t make sense to have him sit half the season on the bench – a trend the Panthers will probably try to get away from after last season – as the 7th defenseman.
“He is a guy we are excited about,” Panthers’ Assistant General Manager Eric Joyce told the Miami Herald in March. “He’s going to compete for a job with us next year. He has been [Springfield’s] best defenseman overall, was an AHL all-star.”
Bjugstad, Hawryluk staying busy
The off-season is long but it’s plenty of time for Nick Bjugstad and Jayce Hawryluk to hone their craft for the upcoming season.
For the second year in a row Bjugstad is playing in Da Beauty League, an annual summer hockey league held in Minnesota that raises money for charity.
After a rough season, Bjugstad, who turned 25 a few weeks ago, is looking to bounce back and help propel the Panthers to another post-season berth.
“You play against a lot of former teammates, a lot of guys you played against in college and high school, so mostly everyone knows each other and that’s what makes it fun,” Bjugstad told NHL.com. “You work hard and have a good time with it. It’s one of my favorite parts of summer.”
In 4 games for RBC, Bjugstad has 5 goals and 7 points, including a hat-trick on Wednesday. There are 4 games left in the regular season before the best 4 teams will advance to the semifinals.
Hawryluk, on the other hand, is playing in the Wendy’s Summer Hockey League in Brandon, Manitoba.
The 21-year old has recorded 35 points in 10 games against a mix of players with junior, minor, and pro hockey experience, including NHLers like Ryan White and Mattt Calvert.
In those 10 games, Hawryluk’s team, which is sponsored by Domino’s, led the league with an 8-1 regular season record before dropping its first playoff game on Thursday.
“I’m honestly feeling maybe a little better than I did last year,” Hawryluk told the Brandon Sun. “I’m around the same weight that I was but I feel like my cardio has gotten a little bit better. I’ve been working on that more, and my skating as well.”
“I’ve been skating quite a bit, and that’s a big part of my game that I want to improve on and become not a faster skater but have more finesse and be more smooth so that I can use my stride to my advantage and be super fast all shift and not tire out.”
The Wendy’s Summer Hockey League playoffs will conclude on August 15th.
Luongo shows off new equipment
Roberto Luongo took to Instagram on Thursday to show off some of his new equipment for the upcoming season.
The 38-year old is gearing up – literally and figuratively – for what everyone hopes will be an exciting season.
CCM Hockey invited some of the goalies that use their equipment to try on and pick up their new equipment while participating in photo shoots.
Luongo’s new mask features a mostly-white design with faded Panthers logos on either side as well as a gold primary logo at the top and gold number 1 on the chin area.
The mask is similar to the navy blue and gold mask he wore midway through last season.
His pads are of the CCM Premier II variant, which is a brand new offering from the company. They feature a sharp blue, gold and white design but lack any sort of red which is in contrast to his design from last year.
Prospects attend World Junior Summer Showcase
A handful of Panthers prospect prospects were invited to the annual World Junior Summer Showcase.
The week-long camp is essentially a tryout for the upcoming World Junior Championship tournament which is held at the end of the year.
Three of the Panthers’ picks from June’s draft – Owen Tippett, Max Gildon, and Tyler Inamoto – in addition to 2016 selection Jonathan Ang were invited to attend their respective country’s camp.
Gildon recorded a goal in 3 total games while playing mostly as an extra defenseman before being released from the camp. Inamoto was also sent home with an undisclosed injury suffered in his first game of the showcase.
Tippett is apparently fine after taking a hard, high hit from Nashville prospect Grant Mismash on August 1st. He needed help up but skated off the ice under his own power and was seen working out after the game.
He was held out of Wednesday’s game against Finland as a precaution.
Entering Wednesday’s matchup against Sweden, Ang has a secondary assist in 2 games played during the showcase.