Good morning and welcome to "Cats & Coffee," a weekly segment in which we get you caffeinated with an exciting look at the week ahead for the Florida Panthers.
The Florida Panthers are on hiatus, but there's still plenty of action going on at BB&T Center.
In conjunction with several local organizations like the Panthers, the City of Sunrise will host its annual Fourth of July celebration outside of the arena on Wednesday. The family-friendly event kicks off at 4:30 p.m. and runs until the final firework fizzles out.
In the time leading up to the incredible fireworks displays -- which is scheduled for 9:15 p.m. - families can enjoy a children's fun zone filled with whacky inflatables, a wide assortment of food and beverage options and, of course, some of the best live music around.
After the Skotch Bonnett Band (5:00 p.m.) and Mr. Nice Guy (6:15 p.m.) take the stage, classic rockers Grand Funk Railroad will bring down the house with some of their classic hits from the 1970s, including "We're an American Band," "The Loco-Motion" and "Some Kind of Wonderful."
While you're there, don't forget to visit the Panthers tent for a chance to play games, win prizes and learn about ticket packages for the upcoming season, which kicks off on Oct. 6 in Tampa.
The full schedule of events is as follows:
4:30 p.m. - Event Opens
5:00 p.m. - Skotch Bonnett Band
6:15 p.m. - Mr. Nice Guy
7:45 p.m. - Grand Funk Railroad
9:15 p.m. - Fireworks!
As always, parking and admission for the event are FREE!
NHL free agency opened on Sunday afternoon, and the Panthers welcomed one new player.
Having already signed Russian free agent defenseman Bogdan Kiselevich and traded for top-six winger Mike Hoffman in June, Florida entered the league's annual summer of spending with just one hole left to fill in its lineup - a third-string goaltender. Enter Michael Hutchinson.
The Panthers inked the 28-year-old veteran to a one-year, one-way contract on Sunday, giving the team a solid third option in net behind starter Roberto Luongo and backup James Reimer. In 102 career NHL games, Hutchison has posted a .910 save percentage.
After spending parts of the last five seasons with Winnipeg, Hutchinson played the majority of last year with the club's AHL affiliate in Manitoba, where he ranked second in the league in save percentage (.935) and third in goals-against average (2.08).
"It's always nice to have a fresh start," Hutchinson said. "I'm just looking to have a good rest of the summer and go into training camp and play well and hopefully turn some heads. We'll see what happens. [The Panthers] have two good goaltenders ahead of me. I'm just looking forward to an opportunity."
In addition to adding Hutchinson, Florida also re-signed Jared McCann to a two-year deal.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself," said McCann, who recorded a career-high 28 points in 68 games in 2017-18. "I realize that nothing's ever given. I know I'm going to have to earn a spot still. I'm ready to take that leap and show them that I can do it."
CATS IN THE COMMUNITY
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
- Panthers GM Dale Tallon enjoyed a "relaxed" free agency opening.
- In his own words, Panthers 2018 third-round pick Logan Hutsko talks about his journey from a broken neck to the NHL Draft.
- Speed and goaltendingwere on display at Florida's development camp scrimmage.
- The Panthers inked Frank Vatrano to a one-year extension.
- D-Camp is just the first step for soon-to-be pros Riley Stillman, Jonathan Ang and Patrick Bajkov.
- Prospects Max Gildon and Chris Wilkie are both expected to light up the NCAA this season.
- In a special episode of Territory Talk, Panthers GM Dale Tallon joins the show to talk about the team's development camp, free agency moves and overall outlook.