Sunrise, Fla. – November is a good month for Florida Panthers defender McKenzie Weigher.
The 26-year-old has returned home to Ottawa and is preparing to start his fifth season with the Panthers after signing a new three-year deal worth $ 9.75 million last week.
He also wears a stylish, mini-horseshoe mustache, which he points out is an achievement that, like the signing of the multi-million dollar NHL deal, has always seemed unattainable.
“I never thought I would see a day when I could grow a beard, but here I am,” Weigher said Monday, flashing a smile through his thick mover whiskers.
It is no secret that Weeker wanted to be with the Panthers, the team that selected him in the seventh round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
He has built a home for himself in South Florida and, after advancing in the ownership line-up, is now securely attached to the Panthers’ best defensive line alongside Aaron Xplot.
Going into the offseason as a banned free agent, there were odds of Weeker returning to the cat list, but a new general manager and subsequent trade rumors put the reorganization on a slight edge.
“It’s definitely different,” Weeker said in the office. “You can see this in two ways. Maybe (new Panthers general manager) Bill (Jitto) doesn’t like me anymore. He focuses on other things. Now I take it positively. Now my name is not on other teams like me. It was so awesome.”
In Jitto’s opinion, he said nothing but good things about Weeker and the way he has played since being hired by the Panthers in early September.
Jitto spoke with Local 10 last week, saying it was his hope to sign Weigher on a one-time contract ahead of an arbitration hearing scheduled for the weekend.
Two days after that conversation, Jitto put his money where his mouth was, and Weiger’s deal was done.
“For me in the end, I wanted to stay in Florida for as many years as possible, and it was always where my head was,” Weigher said, withdrawing one-year contracts. “I can’t be happy that I have three years in Florida.”
With the business side of things finally moving away, Weeker can now shift his focus to playing the game he likes.
He spent the off-season in his hometown of Ontario, continuing training and skating with a team consisting of fellow NHCs Eric Carlson, Jean-Gabriel Bejo, Cody CC and others.
Weeker said he plans to travel to South Florida at the end of November, and travel plans he discussed with teammates Brett Connolly and Frank Vadrano to discuss. At the moment, there are about a dozen Panthers players in the Big Browth County area, which will only continue to grow as the unknown 2020-21 season start date grows closer.
“I know (Aaron Xplot) there, he says (Panthers strength and conditioning coach Mike Donoku) are working with those people again,” Weigher said. “If it’s too cold here, I think we can move to South Florida sooner than planned.”
Whenever Weeker and his other teammates, who are tentatively expected to start sometime next month, come to training camp, they will meet several players who have just signed up and bought.
After hiring the Panthers Jitto in September, he quickly worked on redesigning Florida’s list, and added several skaters known for skiing and snowfall.
This is a part of the Florida plateau in recent years, something that has been acknowledged by Weaver when discussing the upcoming season.
“I’m not saying our teams weren’t good in the past, but I think sometimes we’ve lost a little, a little bit in the style of your face. Finishing your successes makes it harder for teams to come into our building. I think that’s what Bill (Jitto) did.” Weigher said, “When I spoke with him, I knew he was excited about all of his free agent signatures and I’m glad to be a part of it. I think I get along well with what he’s trying to build, and I think the fact that I’m back works well.
Wolf Samuelson was added to the Florida training staff
Weeker’s new deal is not the only business conducted at Sunrise last week.
The Panthers filled a vacancy in the coaching staff, appointing former NHL defender Ulf Samuelson as an assistant.
The 56-year-old Swedish Fokersta is expected to take on a number of responsibilities that former assistant coach Mike Kitchen previously held, who handled the team’s defense during the Games.
According to one source, Samuelson D is planning to coach and run a penalty killing.
A two-time Stanley Cup champion and 15-year-old NHL player with 1,080 games under his belt since his days playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Samuelson has worked hard to continue his career as a coach after retiring as a player.
Samuelson, who most recently worked as a scout for the Cragan franchise in the NHL’s new Seattle, has previously served as assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks.
He was hired as the head coach of AHL’s Charlotte Checkers in 2016-17 and served as a bench boss for Lexanda IF in the Swedish Elite League and Moto Hockey in the country’s second tier league.
“Ulf is an intelligent and experienced coach who will be a great addition to the Panthers,” the Jito team said in a statement. “We are delighted to have Joel join his coaching staff and look forward to his competitive spirit and the impact he can have on our team.”
Samuelson knows Panthers head coach Joel Cuneville very well.
The NHL, which has been managing the blueprint for Hartford whales since the mid-80s. Kay and his aides were released.
Samuelson joins Florida’s assistant coaches, Andrew Brunett, Derek McKenzie and Rob Dallas.
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