Panthers sign college free-agent Blaine Byron to AHL contract

The Panthers’ AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, announced on Friday that they’ve signed forward Blaine Byron to a one-year contract. 

Byron, a 6th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2013, spent the last 4 years at the University of Maine where he recorded a total of 46 goals, 62 assists, and 108 points in 145 career games.

The 22-year old Ottawa-native served as an assistant captain for the Black Bears in during his senior year while leading the team in goals (18) and points (41).

He was also a teammate of center Patrick Shea, the Panthers’ 7th-round pick at the 2015 Draft.

The financial details surrounding Byron’s deal with the Thunderbirds aren’t entirely clear, but what we do know is that the contract carries an “out-clause” which would allow him to sign with an NHL team during the season if there’s an offer.

The Panthers would have the chance to match such an offer, however.

Since Byron’s contract is with the Thunderbirds, he’ll have to sign an NHL deal with the Panthers if they wish to call him up.

After the Penguins signed forward Zach Aston-Reese out of Northwestern University in March, it was all but certain that Byron would opt to go to free-agency.

Teams that draft players out of college have exclusive negotiating rights until August 15th of their senior year before said players become unrestricted free-agents and can be signed by any team.

Top college free-agents Alex Kerfoot (Boston University) and Will Butcher (University of Denver) signed with the Avalanche and Devils respectively.

Byron is said to be in the second tier of free-agents, meaning he wasn’t valued as high as the aforementioned names but is still a fairly good bet on an AHL deal.

The Panthers have worked to secure several drafted and undrafted free-agents over the past couple of years, including Dryden Hunt, Linus Hultstrom, Anthony Greco, and Henrik Haapala, to improve the depth of the organization.

Byron possesses a high skill level, above-average playmaking abilities, and a solid frame. He’s not a force to be reckoned with physically, but has added size to his once thin build, especially over the past couple of years.

Most profiles list Byron as being 6’0″ and ~170 pounds but a recent measurement posted by his agent in May lists him at 198 pounds. Scouts have said that his size helped his game significantly during his senior year during which he posted career numbers.

He underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery in March but is expected to be fully recovered for the start of the season.

The Thunderbirds were inconsistent offensively last season and have done a good job adding some more weapons this off-season, including Curtis Valk, Alexandre Grenier, Connor Brickley, Francois Beauchemin, and now Byron who could slot into the team’s top-6 from the start.

The Thunderbirds will face the Providence Bruins in a preseason game on September 29th.

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