With the eve of the 2014-2015 season approaching rapidly, the Florida Panthers made a splash in NHL news; dealing forward Joey Crabb to the New York Rangers in exchange for former Boston Bruin and Minnesota Wild rearguard Steven Kampfer and hometown boy Andrew Yogan, Dale Tallon’s trade capped a day that saw Shane O’Brien signed to an NHL contract and the naming of Willie Mitchell as the franchise’s eighth Captain.
Arguably the biggest tidbit of the day, recent free-agent acquisition Willie Mitchell was promoted to Captain of the Florida Panthers; a veteran of 795 NHL games, the two-time Stanley Cup-winning blueliner was lured to Sunrise in the opening stages of free agency. Valued for his experience, Mitchell was brought in to serve the role of mentor, to guide a Panthers team stuffed to the gills with young talent and show the kids the way of the consummate professional. A stay-at-home defenseman, his rugged style should complement his locker room presence, leading the defensive effort by example on the BB&T Center Ice. In receiving this distinction, he joins a list of Panther legends that have worn the C stitched into their sweaters; from rat-trick mastermind Scott Mellanby to “The Russian Rocket” Pavel Bure, from all-time points leader Olli Jokinen to current assistant coach and original Captain Brian Skrudland, these players have played instrumental roles in the squads of the past. With over a regular season’s worth of postseason play under his belt, Mitchell may be the stabilizing force this struggling team needs to return to the playoffs for just the second time in the last 14 seasons.
In contractual news, Shane O’Brien was added to the fold shortly after the announcement of Willie Mitchel’s captaincy. The deal, the club announced, is a one-year, two-way contract; though no financial terms were announced, O’Brien-a participant in 528 NHL tilts-was immediately placed on waivers, with the aim of assigning the journeyman rearguard to AHL affiliate San Antonio. This depth signing and subsequent roster move paves the way for 24-year old Colby Robak, a former second-round choice of the club back in 2008, to finally crack the pro roster, presumably as the seventh d-man and possibly working his way into the top-six contingent on the play of Aaron Ekblad during his nine game try-out stint.
Lastly, as previously mentioned, General Manager Tallon swung a two-for-one deal with the Broadway Blueshirts, shipping in Kampfer and Yogan at the expense of AHLer Crabb. Spurred on by 19-year old Anthony Duclair’s cracking the opening day roster, the deal freed up the necessary room for the Rags to take on the French-Canadian winger’s deal without exceeding the NHL’s 50-contract limit. The more experienced of the two, 26-year old Steven Kampfer was selected in the fourth round of the 2007 NHL Draft out of the University of Michigan. Having played in 61 NHL contests, the Ann Arbor native first made the bigs with the Bruins during the 2010-2011 campaign, playing 48 games with the club over the course of two years before being dealt at the 2012 Trade Deadline to the Wild for Greg Zanon. His most recent stint in the pros came with the Minnesota-based club; posting 15 points off of seven goals in his NHL career, his acquisition adds further depth to the farm system’s defensive reserves. As for Andrew Yogan, 2010’s 100th-overall selection has yet to reach the National Hockey League, most recently plying his trade with the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors, putting up points at a near point-per-game pace.