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Aaron Ekblad confident in Panthers chances after busy offseason

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The Florida Panthers made major offseason moves to completely revamp their roster and coaching staff.

For the first time in a long time, the team is now considered to be among those expected to be in the mix for a Stanley Cup in 2019/2020. But as the saying goes: with hype comes lofty expectations.

Can the Florida Panthers get the most out of the talent on their roster and live up to what is expected of them? All-Star defenceman Aaron Ekblad is as confident as anybody that the team will be able to deliver.

“Maybe in the past people overlooked us, but right now, I would say we go into this year as the team to beat,” said Ekblad.

“With the players we’ve brought in and the core we have established, I mean, if we don’t win, you know things are going to go sideways pretty quick. We have to realize and know if we want to stay together, we have to win.”

Among the major transactions this offseason includes the hiring of three-time Stanley Cup champion head coach Joel Quenneville, the signing of Vezina Trophy winning defenceman Sergei Bobrovsky, and the additions of veteran defenseman Anton Stralman and forwards  Brett Connolly to add to an already promising young core that includes the likes of Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, and others.

The Panthers will need to exercise their demons and not let the pressure of living up to expectations get the best of them like it tends to do. Despite having promise for the past several years, they have made the post-season just twice since 2005/06, and have not advanced past the first round since their Stanley Cup final run way back in 1996.

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Eric Gryba announces retirement after seven NHL seasons

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It was fun while it lasted, but it’s time to move onto different things.

After failing to crack the Flames lineup on a professional tryout, veteran defenceman Eric Gryba has called it quits.

He confirmed his retirement decision in a video message posted on Twitter.

“Hey, guys, I just wanted to give you all a heads up that I am retiring from professional hockey,” said Gryba in the video.

“It’s been a lot of great years and a lot of great memories, but the body is starting to fail a little bit and I feel it’s just time to move on to the next chapter of my life.”

The 31-year old, who was selected 68th overall in the 2006 NHL Draft, compiled seven goals, 36 assists, 368 penalty minutes and a plus-15 rating over a span of seven seasons and 289 games split between the Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils.

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Senators ink Thomas Chabot to lucrative eight-year extension

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Eugene Melnyk proving to the world that he willing to actually spend big money to keep a player in the nation’s capital.

The Ottawa Senators announced Thursday that they have signed their best defenceman Thomas Chabot to an eight-year, $64 million contract extension that comes into effect next season.

“Thomas is an exceptional talent and an outstanding teammate, who is impactful both on and off the ice. He is the type of player that can develop into a core member of a championship-level team in the National Hockey League…He is an NHL all-star; an elite skater and puck-mover who plays with pace and determination.” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion.

“We are convinced Thomas will have a significant impact on the Ottawa Senators as we develop and grow into a highly competitive team over the coming seasons and we are extremely proud that Thomas will continue to be a key part of our team’s future success moving forward. Today is a great day for the Ottawa Senators franchise.”

As part of the deal, he will make $7 million in each of the first two seasons, $4 million in 2022/2023, $8 million in 2023/2024, $10 million in each of the following three seasons, and back to $8 million in the final year of the deal in 2027/2028.

The 22-year old, who was selected 15th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, is coming off a career-best season where he posted 14 goals and 41 assists in 70 games.

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Canadiens, Hurricanes among teams interested in Stars defenceman Julius Honka

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Just a couple days after formally requesting a trade, the market is heating up for Dallas Stars defenceman Julius Honka.

According to reports, the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes are among the teams interesting in acquiring the 2014 first round pick in a trade, and currently the most aggressive suitors.

The Canadiens would apparently rather do a player-for-player swap than give up a draft pick for a defenceman who hasn’t lived up to expectations. It’s unclear what the Hurricanes are asking for in negotiations.

The 23-year old Finnish native has compiled two goals, 11 assists and 28 penalty minutes over a span of 87 regular season games and three NHL seasons.

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