Dominic Moore admitted late Wednesday it was a long summer.
The 29-year-old centerman had waited throughout the summer, throughout training camp and the opening week of the season, to sign with the NHL team that best suited what he had to give.
Let’s see…hard-worker, excellent face-off man, strong penalty killer, big energy guy, someone coming off a career-best, 45-point season.
“We had a lot of teams who were interested at various points,” Moore recalled from Cambridge, Ma., home of his alma mater Harvard. “But I wanted to make the right decision. I wanted to join a team that was a good fit. The identity the Panthers are trying to build fits the type of player I am.”
Late Saturday afternoon, Moore had clearly found that team when, moments after the Panthers suffered their first loss of the season in Helsinki, Moore received a phone call from Panthers coach Peter DeBoer.
“I guess it was right after the game,” Moore said. “I’ve never met him before, but I really appreciated him talking to me and I’m really exciting about getting there. The Panthers are a hard-working team with a lot of speed and they’re well balanced.”
Less than 48 hours later, Moore had signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. He is hoping to join the team for Friday’s game at Carolina or for the Panthers home opener Saturday at BankAtlantic Center against the Devils.
“It was a long process, but I’m glad things have worked out and I’m very excited to join the team,” Moore said. “I’ve been in Boston all summer. I skated with the pro guys in the area. Once (training) camp started, I trained with the team (at Harvard).”
Moore, who played four years at Harvard alongside brothers Mark and Steve, was the Rangers second choice (95th overall) in the 2000 Entry Draft. When he arrived in New York, however, he was caught behind a high-priced, veteran lineup that included Mark Messier, Petr Nedved, Bobby Holik and Eric Lindros. Tom Renney, an assistant coach with the Rangers in 2003-04, when Moore played five games in New York, said Moore had “tremendous anticipation and peripheral vision.”
After being traded between New York, Minnesota and Pittsburgh, Moore was claimed off waivers by Toronto in January of 2008. Moore showed his talent and versatility in Toronto, scoring 55 points in 101 games with the Maple Leafs before being sent at last year’s trade deadline to the Sabres.
Moore ended the 2008-09 season with 45 points (13 goals) in 81 games between Toronto and Buffalo. He also ranked among the NHL leaders (tied for 12th) with a 54.1 face-off winning percentage, something the Panthers have been in need of since last season.
When asked what Moore would bring to the Panthers earlier this week, DeBoer replied; “He’s a forecheck, skilled, speed player, and that’s the way we want to play.”
“We want to play up-tempo,” he added. “We want to pressure the puck and you need guys who can skate in the lineup to do that. He’s going to set the pace from a forecheck point of view. He’ll be a real welcome addition to the face-off circle. It’s no secret over the last year I’ve been here we haven’t had a consistent face-off guy. When you don’t start with puck possession it’s always tough to get it back.”