By George Richards
The free agency period doesn’t start until Friday, although free agents — which now includes center Stephen Weiss — are allowed to begin speaking with other teams Tuesday.
Florida had hoped to sign Weiss, the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, before it came to this, although him testing the market is of little surprise.
The Panthers also let goaltender Jose Theodore free despite him making it clear that he would have liked to stay in Florida.
And that still could happen, depending on whether the team feels secure going into the season with Scott Clemmensen backing up 23-year-old Jacob Markstrom.
Florida will make qualifying offers to a number of its restricted free agents, including Markstrom and Shawn Matthias. It’s not known whether the Panthers will offer contracts to Jack Skille and Peter Mueller. If not, they could return, although they will probably find offers elsewhere and move on.
The Panthers also could buy out a contract or two, but assistant general manager Mike Santos said Sunday that was unlikely. The Panthers, who bought out Matt Bradley’s small contract last summer, don’t like writing big checks to players not to play for them.
And since the Panthers are nowhere near the salary cap ceiling, they don’t need to buy out players to add contracts when free agency hits.