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30 in 15: Butler adds veteran depth to Florida Panthers

by Mike Battaglino / continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

The Florida Panthers are holding a virtual cattle call this training camp, caused in part by the quality of their last-place finish last season, and as insurance in case the injury epidemic that infected the team debilitates again.

"Everyone here is fighting for a chance to play for the Panthers to make us win," general manager Dale Tallon said as camp opened.

That could be just the opportunity forward Bobby Butler is looking for.

On his fourth organization since his NHL debut in April 2010, the former University of New Hampshire star is looking to graduate to permanent status. At 26 years old, this may be his last chance.

Waived twice last season, Butler was acquired from the Nashville Predators in an early offseason trade and signed a two-year contract with the Panthers on June 24.

Florida, tied for last in the NHL in goals scored with the Predators, is seeking to capture the form Butler flashed in his first extended stay in the League, when he had 21 points in the final 27 games of the 2010-11 season. He had eight points in the last four games.

"Last year we were injured and we didn't have a lot of guys that could come up and play and fill in, so we're trying to correct that situation with the addition of [Jesse] Winchester, [Mike] Mottau and Joey Crabb and Butler," Tallon said. "We've got guys that can come up and play valuable minutes for us when we're injured. Last year we didn't have enough depth to offset those injuries."

Butler scored three goals at the 2013 IIHF World Championship for the United States, which won the bronze medal in Stockholm.

"It was an awesome experience, something that I'll always remember," Butler told "Just being in Europe, I've never been, so it was definitely fun. It was good to have a little change in the bigger ice, kind of neat to have a different and fun experience."

Butler’s had 27 points in his past 90 NHL games with the Senators, New Jersey Devils and Predators, and 11 in 34 games last season. He is in Panthers camp as part of a group of older newcomers that includes Brad Boyes, Scott Gomez and Jon Matsumoto. They are competing for roster spots with prospects Alexsander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden and Vincent Trocheck.

"There's a lot of veteran guys that are coming to the camp and you never know what's going to happen. Each one of us has to earn their spot," Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau said. "It's going to be a hard camp and everybody wants to play on that team, so it probably should be good. It's nice to see veterans come to the camp and is going to bring a good energy."

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