MacKenzie Weegar “couldn’t be happier” for signing a 3-year deal, likes the bold direction the Panthers are headed
Sunrise, Florida. November was a good month for the Florida Panthers, McKinsey and Jealousy.
The 26-year-old is back home in Ottawa and is preparing to kick off his fifth season with the Panthers after signing a new three-year contract worth $ 9.75 million last week.
He’s also dressed in a stylish little horseshoe mustache, which he pointed out was an achievement so much like signing a multi-million dollar NHL contract that looked like something that had always been out of reach.
“I never thought I’d see the day I could grow a beard, but here I am,” said Weegar, smiling through the thick Movember bristles on Monday.
It was no secret that Wicker wanted to stay with the Panthers, the team he selected in the seventh round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
He made a home for himself in South Florida after making his way through the franchise ranks, and is now securely fastened to the best of the Panther defensive duo alongside Aaron Ecblade.
Heading into the offseason as a tied free agent, the odds were in favor of Weegar for his comeback on the Cats roster, but the new general manager and subsequent commercial rumors had little to no worries.
“It was definitely different,” he said of the off-season jealousy. “You can look at it in two ways. Think maybe (the new chief of the Panthers) Bill (Zito) doesn’t want me anymore and he’s focusing on other things, and I used to consider that my name is now a positive thing and other teams want me, and that was cool.
In terms of Zito’s opinion, he’s said nothing but good things about Weegar and the way he’s played since Panthers hired him in early September.
Zito spoke with Local 10 last week and said his hope was that Weegar would sign a fixed-term deal before the arbitration session scheduled for the weekend.
Two days into that conversation, Zito puts his money, and a deal is sealed and jealous.
“In the end for me, I just wanted to stay in Florida for as many years as possible, and this is where I always am,” said Weigger, who has been pulling out of back-to-back contracts for one year. “I couldn’t be happier because I have three years left in Florida.”
With the business side of things finally fading, Weegar can now turn his focus back on playing the game he loves.
He has spent vacation time in his native Ontario, where he regularly trains and skates with a group that includes fellow NHLers Erik Karlsson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Codi Ceci, and others.
The plan, Wiggar said, is to head to South Florida sometime around the end of November, the travel plans he discussed with team mates Brett Connolly and Frank Vatrano. Currently, there are around ten Panthers in the greater Broward County, a number that will only continue to grow as the unknown 2020-21 season approaches.
“I know (Aaron Ecblade) is out there and he’s saying (Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Donogo) is back there to work with these guys,” he said. “If it were cold here, I think I might find my way to South Florida much sooner than I had planned.”
When Weegar and the rest of his teammates arrive at Boot Camp, which is tentatively expected to start sometime next month, they will meet several signed and newly acquired players.
After the Panthers hired Zito in September, work quickly began reshaping the Florida roster, adding many skaters known for their determination and tenacity on the ice.
It’s an area where Florida has fallen far in recent years, which is something I admit and be jealous of when discussing next season.
“I am not saying that our teams in the past were not good, but I do think that sometimes we were missing a little bit of courage and a little bit of that in your facial style, ending your successes and making them more difficult teams to get into our building, and I think that’s what Bill (Zito) did.” Jealous, he said. “When I talk to him, I know he’s excited about all the free engagements with his agent and I’m glad I could be a part of that. I think I mix well with what he’s trying to build, and I think he’s working fine after I’m back.”
Ulf Samuelsson has been added to the Florida Training Staff
Weegar’s new contract wasn’t the only Sunrise work done last week.
The Panthers also held a vacancy on the Training Staff, having appointed former NHL Defender Ulf Samuelsson as Assistant.
The 56-year-old from Fagersta, Sweden is expected to take on many of the responsibilities previously held by former assistant coach Mike Kitchen, who managed the team’s defense during matches.
According to a source, the plan is for Samuelsson to train D and carry out the murder sentence.
A two-time Stanley Cup champion from his playing days with Pittsburgh Penguin and an NHL expert for 15 years with 1,080 matches under his belt, Samuelsson has worked hard to continue his career as a coach after his retirement as a player.
Samuelsson has recently served as a scout for the new NHL franchise in Seattle Kraken, and previously served as assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks.
He was also named head coach of AHL’s Charlotte Checkers in 2016-2017 and served as the bench coach at Leksanda IF of the Swedish Elite League as well as at MODO Hockey in the country’s second division.
“Olf is a knowledgeable and experienced coach who will be a great addition to the Panthers,” Zito said in a statement issued by the team. “We are excited for him to join Joel’s coaching staff and look forward to his competitive mindset and the impact he can have on our team.”
Samuelson knows Panther’s coach Joel Quinville well.
The two skied together for six years in the NHL, running a blueline for the Hartford Whalers in the mid to late 1980s, and Quinville had Samuelsson on his coaching staff in Chicago for the 2017-18 season, and for a short while the following year before Question and his assistants were abandoned.
Samuelson has joined Andrew Brunet, Derek Mackenzie and Rob Talas as assistant coaches for Florida.
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