SUNRISE, Fla. - Sergei Bobrovsky is already getting a taste of southern hospitality.
Not long after the two-time Vezina Trophy winner signed a seven-year deal with the Florida Panthers on Monday's opening of free agency, the 30-year-old received quite a gift from one of his new teammates.
Having worn the No. 72 since joining the Columbus Blue Jackets since the 2012-13 season, it seemed like a given that Bobrovsky would simply assume the same jersey number with he took over Florida's crease.
There was a problem, though.
Frank Vatrano, who has been with the Panthers since 2017, already wore those digits.
But before Bobrovsky could even pick up the phone to negotiate a price, Vatrano had already put a call in to Panthers head equipment manager Teddy Richards about gifting his number to the team's latest all-star netminder. While this was still going on, however, the feisty forward had some fun on Twitter.
"Glad to give up #72 to @SergeiBobrovsky," he tweeted from his @Frank_Vatrano account. "Looks like I'm gunna have to make the change to #77. Can't wait for my new Rolex and free dinner for the year!"
When asked about the Tweet, Vatrano told FloridaPanthers.com in a phone interview that although he was joking about receiving the costly timepiece, he was holding out hope for a dinner down the road.
"He's going to be a big part of our team now going forward," Vatrano said. "He's a guy that's done a lot in this league -- a lot more than I've done, and he's been around a lot longer. I think it was a no-brainer to give him the number that he likes to wear. For me, it's about moving onto the next number."
That next number with be 77, which Vatrano said he hopes will bring him some luck.
"I've actually never worn it before," Vatrano said. "You can never go wrong with lucky sevens."
Heading into the upcoming season on a new three-year contract that he signed in February, Vatrano, who set new career-highs in goals (24), assists (15) and points (39) during the 2018-19 campaign, said he's excited to see what the team's new No. 72 will bring to the ice as the Cats fight for a playoff spot.
"I'm glad he's wearing it," Vatrano said. "He's going to be a big part of our team."