By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
|The Panthers nabbed a perennial 20-goal scorer, when they signed Cory Stillman to a 3-year contract on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
The Panthers picked up a 20-goal scorer, a slick passer and power play specialist, a veteran leader, and two-time Stanley Cup winner all rolled into one Tuesday during the opening day of free agency.
Meet Cory Stillman.
Stillman, who has scored 20 or more goals in eight of the last 10 seasons, signed a three-year deal with the Panthers. The 34-year-old gives the Panthers another offensive weapon as well as a player who delivers in key situations.
“I believe Cory is a tremendous team player and I think he’ll fit in well with our people,” said GM Jacques Martin during a media conference. “He’s a player who has the ability to score some goals but is also a very smart player. He’s a player that’s won two Stanley Cups, and both times he won the Stanley Cups he had tremendous playoffs.
“He’s a great competitor, great on the power play, and I think he’ll be able to really help our top two lines and bring some of the production we have lost. But he’s also got great character. We know he trains hard in the off-season and he has a really good understanding of the game.”
Stillman is one of only six players in NHL history to win consecutive Stanley Cups with two different teams. He pulled that trick in 2004 with the Lightning and 2006 with the Hurricanes.
Stillman had 80 points (25 goals) in 2003-04 with the Lightning. During the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup-winning playoff run in 2005-06, Stillman had 26 points (nine goals) in 25 playoff games. He recorded at least a point in 10 consecutive playoff games during the ’06 playoffs and at least a point a game in 17 of 19 games during another stretch.
Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette once called Stillman a player who “contributes in the biggest games in the biggest ways.”
A native of Peterborough, Ont., Stillman began his playing career with the Windsor Spitfires in 1990-91, recording 101 points (70 assist) in 64 games. Drafted sixth overall in the 1992 Entry Draft by Calgary, Stillman spent 6 ½ seasons there before spending time in St. Louis, Tampa and Carolina.
Stillman, waived his no-trade contract in Carolina last season and finished the season in Ottawa, where he had 19 points (16 assists) in 24 games and had two goals in four playoff games.
The Panthers have a strong idea of what kind of player Stillman is since assistant coach Mike Kitchen coached him in St. Louis and Martin knows his trainer in Ottawa.
“I think he’s an individual who will provide some leadership through his actions, through his play on the ice, his commitment, and the fact he’s won two Stanley Cups,” Martin said. “I think he’s a good mentor for our young players.”
Martin said he was pleased with the acquisition of Stillman, and wasn’t sure if the Panthers would sign any more free agents.
“You always look to improve your hockey club, but right now…” Martin considered the Panther roster. “If you look at the numbers we would have 12 players signed as far as forwards are concerned and eight defensemen. That leaves some spots for kids as well. As I said all along, we have some kids who may be ready to play.”