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Five Day Makeover

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers
Goaltender Tim Thomas makes a save against Tampa Bay during pre-season play. Thomas, a two-time Vezina winner has a career 196-121-45 rcord with 2.48 GAA. (Photo Credit: Eliot J Schechter)

What a difference five days can make.

During that time, the Panthers officially added five veterans to their lineup with 40 years of NHL experience and 2,231 games played. It started with the signing of Tim Thomas Thursday, the signings of Brad Boyes and Tom Gilbert and trade for Krys Barch on Saturday and with the latest addition, the signing of eight-year vet Ryan Whitney Monday.

What looked like a youth movement for the 2013-14 Panthers earlier this summer, the Panthers lineup is now littered with new veteran players who have won Stanley Cups (Thomas and Scott Gomez) and other accolades. The five players are just the first moves by General Manager Dale Tallon as he looks to get the team back in the playoffs after going through an extremely tough season last year.

Announced as the Panthers new owners on Friday, Vincent J Viola and Doug Cifu have certainly kept to their word in giving Tallon the resources to improve the team and provide more internal competition as can be seen by the latest additions.

"We're going to be a team that's going to try to improve on a regular basis," said Tallon on Friday after the ownership news conference. "We'll spend efficiently. What that number will be, that depends on who's available and what's available and what trades are available and all that."

There is certainly an excitement among the players and coaches in the locker room with the new ownership change. As Viola spoke to them, they could tell that the new Panthers owner wants to win and wants them to bring their best every day.

"Speaking of people with an aura. He has an aura about him," said Thomas of Viola. "He breaths confidence from my perspective. He's a leader and I'm very happy to be coming in the organization at the same time that he is. It's awesome. That's part of what I'm excited about. I'm excited about the whole direction of everything that's going on here."

"With Vinnie Viola coming in, and Doug Cifu, I just think that overall with that group, just our players in general, I like the vibe in the locker room," said head coach Kevin Dineen. "I like the temple, the tenure of our group, we’re all speaking the same language.”

All five of the Panthers newest players have at least played in seven years of NHL experience. Thomas is a former two-time Vezina winner with a record of 378 games played, a 196-121-45 record, 2.48 goals against average and .921 SV%. Boyes has posted 407 points (168-239-407) in 606 games over nine seasons. Along the blue line, the Panthers added two more veteran defenders as Gilbert has played in seven NHL seasons and has posted 176 points in 447 games and Whitney has posted 259 points in 474 games over nine seasons. Then there's Barch. While acquired via trade and not signed like the other four, Barch's addition adds an enforcer type player to the lineup as the forward has posted 713 PIM in 326 games over seven NHL seasons.

Forward Brad Boyes celebrates a goal against Tampa Bay in the final pre-season game. Boyes has recorded 407 points in 606 career NHL games (Photo Credit: Eliot J Schechter)

For Boyes, Gilbert and Thomas, they had to bide their time while the business side worked itself out, going through training camp with the Panthers on pro tryout contracts. But with Viola taking over, Tallon was able to give them all one-year contracts after they earned it with their play throughout pre-season.

"You had to be patient and in the long run it worked out great," said Gilbert. "Patience is a virtue. I just came in and I told myself 'don't worry about the business part of it, just go out there play hockey, play your game' and in the end it will work out."

"I'm not one to kind of count my chickens sort of thing," said Boyes. "You never know what can happen. Hopefully my thought coming here, there was a good possibility but like you mentioned, there wasn't a guarantee."

The Panthers have grabbed headlines around the league all this past week. Well, maybe just the last five days but the vibe and excitement that the ownership change has given the franchise has everyone excited for the upcoming season as the Panthers kick off the their 20th Anniversary season in Dallas on Thursday.

"I'm very excited to be a Florida Panther. Very excited in an organization that is in the middle of a new start, looking to grow, to get better," said Thomas. "Part of a group that's heading in the same direction."

"The meetings I've had with Vinnie and Doug is that there's a commitment to win and the players sense that and they will give more energy," said Tallon. "There's so much parity in our game today and what's the difference; a little bit of energy, a little bit of enthusiasm, a little bit of luck. All those things but the fact to know that there's a commitment from above from the ownership."

And to think, that's just the first five days.

"I'm excited about this opportunity," said Tallon. "We've had great conversations. I'm inspired by Vinnie and I'm going to fight like hell to win a Stanley Cup soon."

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