Florida Panthers Sign Free Agent Defenseman

After several seasons overseas, Uvis Balinskis, a solid international defenseman who was expected to emerge in the NHL years ago, has finally signed on in North America. It's a one-year, entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers.

The deal will pay him a $950,000 salary, with an $870,000 cap hit. 

He was the Czech Extraliga top defenseman this season, registering 35 points on 11 goals and 24 assists in 50 games for the Liberec White Tigers. Prior to his three seasons in the Czech pro league, the Latvian D-man had played in parts of five seasons in the KHL. 

But ever since hiring a North American agent in 2017, there was talk about the undrafted blueliner eventually coming to the NHL. Now, at the age of 26, he'll be giving it a shot. 

"Uvis is a productive defenseman who has proven his impressive two-way skillset at an elite level in Europe," said Panthers GM Bill Zito. "We look forward to having a player of his caliber in our system."

Balinskis should have a real chance at making the Panthers' roster for the 2023-24 season. Of note, Florida backliners Radko GudasAnthony Bitetto, and Marc Staal are all set for unrestricted free agency this summer. 

Photo: Reuters-USA TODAY Sports