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Panthers sign Kuba: two years, $8 million

Filip Kuba

For the second consecutive summer, Florida GM Dale Tallon has raised eyebrows in free agency.

The Panthers have signed former Ottawa defenseman Filip Kuba to a two-year, $8 million deal -- a bold move that all but ensures Jason Garrison is on his way out of Sunrise.

The deal represents a slight pay raise for the 35-year-old Kuba who, on his last deal, had an average annual salary of $3.7 million. It also reunites the Czech rearguard with the team that drafted him in the eighth round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft (Kuba made his NHL debut with the panthers in 1998-99.)

That said, this deal is loaded with questions.

There’s no denying Kuba’s an established NHL defenseman, but one has to wonder what Kuba the Panthers are getting.

Is it the guy that stumbled to a 16-point, minus-26 season in 2010-11?

Or is it the guy that rebounded with a 32-point, plus-26 campaign last season -- in what (coincidentally) happened to be a contract year? (While playing with Erik Karlsson, don’t forget.)

Whatever the case, one thing’s for certain -- the Panthers blueline didn’t get any younger with this acquisition. Kuba will be 36 in December, which is slightly younger than Ed Jovanovski, who turned the big 3-6 in June.

Throw in Mike Weaver (34) and Brian Campbell (33) and, uh...the Panthers have plenty of mentors for Erik Gudbranson (20) and Dmitry Kulikov (21).