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Panthers free agents praise owners' attitude

Group of five joining core than won Atlantic Division last season

by Cutler Klein @CutlerKlein / Staff Writer

The Florida Panthers are committed to winning the Stanley Cup, and it starts with their ownership.

That was evident at a press conference Thursday that introduced their seven free agent signings, including defensemen Keith Yandle and Jason Demers. Executive chairman Peter Luukko praised owners Vincent Viola and Doug Cifu's all-in attitude.

"We're committed as owners," Luukko said. "Vinny and Doug, I think they saw that. We have seven signings here today. I was with the [Philadelphia] Flyers and we had a great core, but I don't remember seven guys in the middle of July. I think it tells you where [we] have come to as an organization, but most importantly, where we're going to go."

General manager Tom Rowe said Viola and his group are providing him with the resources needed.

"It tells you how much commitment the ownership and how badly they want to win," Rowe said. "I've never been with an organization that [has] had as aggressive ownership as we do. They've just told us one thing: The Stanley Cup is the only thing we're interested in."

Yandle, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers on June 20 before signing a seven-year contract on June 24, stressed the importance of Viola's commitment in making his decision.

"I think the main thing for me was seeing how involved the owners were and how committed they are to winning," Yandle said. "It's going to be a fun time. When you saw them lock up all their young guys, you know they're committed to winning."

Video: We chat with Tom Rowe, the GM of the Florida Panthers

Demers signed a five-year contract as a free agent on July 2. He said the Panthers were a top choice for him because of the core in place that won the Atlantic Division last season.

"I'm very excited to be here," he said. "It was at the top of my list in deciding where to sign. You can feel the momentum here building over the last few years and I think it's an exciting time to be in Florida."

The Panthers also introduced defenseman Mark Pysyk, acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres for defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, and forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Colton Sceviour. Forwards Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck also were on hand after re-signing.

Luukko said he could tell the Panthers were building something special based on the sentiment he saw after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2014-15.

"I've been fortunate enough to be around a long time, and you could see, frankly, our players were [angry]," he said. "They weren't happy that they didn't make the playoffs and there was unfinished work. There was work to be done. As tough as it was to miss the playoffs, it was exciting because you could see where that room was building. What that really begins to tell you is that we have a very good core of players."

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