Forward, 45, scheduled to become unrestricted free agent July 1; agent has had ‘extensive talks’ with Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are turning their attention to trying to re-sign forward Jaromir Jagrand to the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas, general manager Dale Tallon said Thursday.

After losing center Jonathan Marchessault, their leading goal-scorer this season, to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft and trading forward Reilly Smith to Vegas on Wednesday, the Panthers resumed their efforts to bring back Jagr, 45, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“I told his agent that we would talk after this expansion draft,” Tallon said. “We’ve had extensive talks about it before and I’m looking forward to talking to his agent in the next few days.”

Jagr finished fourth on the Panthers with 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) and was one of three Florida forwards, along with Vincent Trocheck and Derek MacKenzie, to play in all 82 games.

The Panthers will be looking for the best available player in the draft, regardless of position, with the No. 10 pick, Tallon said. The first round is in Chicago on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).


[RELATED: Complete 2017 NHL Draft coverage]


“We’re confident,” Tallon said. “We’re very hopeful we’re going to get a good player at 10. Our staff and scouts have worked really hard, put together a real tight list. Hopefully we’ll draft well as we have in the past five, six years. I’m excited about going to work [Friday] and getting the best players possible. Our goal is to draft everyone and have them all play on our team.”

Marchessault, who joined the Panthers as a free agent signing a two-year, $1.5 million contract (average annual value $750,000) last July 1, scored 30 goals. He was the first Florida player to reach that plateau since 2008-09, when David Booth scored 31.

Tallon said the trade of Smith to the Golden Knights for a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft was made to provide financial flexibility. Smith, who scored 25 goals in 2015-16, signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension (average annual value $5 million) last July 3.

The Panthers were among seven teams in the NHL that chose to protect four or more defensemen in the expansion draft, but that left them able to protect four forwards instead of seven. Florida protected centers Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Trocheck, left wing Jonathan Huberdeau, defensemen Keith Yandle, Aaron Ekblad, Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic, and goalie James Reimer.

“We felt that defense and up the middle has been our model since we started building this team, so we felt very confident that we would keep our young core of defensemen and keep our solid young core up the middle,” Tallon said. “Our goal is to win multiple championships, and these moves that we’re making are looking to not only the present but the future. We’ll be aggressive moving forward in free agency. There’s a plan in place that we’re going to stick [to]. This is not necessarily the team we’ll have in three months from now.

“You win championships with defense first. You saw in the [Stanley Cup Final] with the 1-0 games, one-goal games. Obviously we like goal-scoring, we’re committed to that as well. We just felt very confident that we had to continue our building up the back end and filling up the middle stronger defensively, and that would lead to more offense. We’re going to be aggressive on July 1 to bring in some scoring, but we thought we had to keep our defensive core intact.”

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