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Nate Schmidt Excited to Find ‘Magic’ with the Florida Panthers

Nate Schmidt only got to play for Paul Maurice for a few months in Winnipeg, so, when the chance came to join his former coach with the Florida Panthers, he jumped at it.

Schmidt signed a one-year deal with the Panthers not long after the Jets bought out the final year of his contract.

Florida, down a couple defensemen when Brandon Montour and Oliver Ekman-Larsson took bigger paydays elsewhere, Schmidt quickly signed on.

Schmidt had been making close to $6 million annually on a deal he signed with Vegas in 2019; he says signing with the Panthers was certainly not about the money.

“Money? I have what I need for the rest of my life,’’ he said. “I want to win a Cup and want to do it with a team that’s going to have fun doing it.”

Schmidt said joining the Panthers was attractive not only to join Maurice and assistant coach Jamie Kompon again, but to be part of a group that is obviously special.

He called Florida’s chemistry “magic,” saying this situation is something he has been “chasing” since his days with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

“I felt like this was a long time coming,” Schmidt said. “This was a team I had watched when I was in Washington and had come up through the rebuilding phase, into a contender phase to where they are now.

“For myself, I love the idea of joining this team and the energy of this group, playing for Paul and Jamie again was high on my radar when I was going through the process. They understand my game, what they can extract from you and your group, and I love that about Paul and how he treats his teams.

“This group has the vibe of my first year in Vegas, how the team operates, how the guys treat each other. It’s magic, and you’ve been chasing it down ever since.”

As was the case last summer, the Panthers had to fix up their blueline.

Last year, it was because Florida knew Montour and Aaron Ekblad would miss the start of the new season. This year, it is due to defections.

The signing of Schmidt and Adam Boqvist should help the Panthers in a number of ways.

Schmidt, like Ekman-Larsson before him, is hoping to get his game back in gear with the Panthers.

He says he is willing to do anything with the Panthers.

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“When you look at how they use their defensemen and how the minutes are dispersed out,” said Schmidt, who had been a healthy scratch by the Jets in each of the past two years after being considered a top defenseman in Vegas.

“I saw an opportunity for me to come in here, be part of a group with an excellent d-corps and say ‘I can contribute on a team that just won the Cup.’ That is a very enticing feeling. There are a lot of defenseman coming to camp, and I am going into summer in hardware mode, finding our you’re going to have to grind out a spot no matter how many games you have played or how many playoff games you’ve been a part of. … It doesn’t mean much until you get there, and that has been a motivating factor for me this summer. Finding this team has the pieces, I just have to jump on board and be ready to go.’’

The Golden Knights traded Schmidt to Vancouver in 2020 after needing the cap space to sign Alex Pietrangelo. Schmidt then ended up in Winnipeg the following season.

Maurice was coaching the Jets at the time, resigning on December 17, 2021.

He took over the Panthers a few months later.

Schmidt said he spoke with Maurice and Kompon before signing with the Panthers.

“I have a ton of respect for Paul, everything he has been through and it is what it is,” Schmidt said. “His decision was there, I was sad at the time. I thought my career was taking back off in a good direction.

“I have a chance to come full circle and hit him up again with Jamie and had a couple great conversations with both of them. There’s something about that style and the accountability he holds his team to, and the excitement around the team that he brings is what drew me there.”

More FHN Coverage of the Stanley Cup Champion Panthers:
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
  • NHL Free Agency: Opened July 1
  • Florida Panthers Development Camp, Fort Lauderdale: Scrimmage today, 5 p.m.
  • Florida Panthers Training Camp, Fort Lauderdale: Mid-September
  • Florida Panthers Preseason: Sept. 22-Oct. 5
  • Florida Panthers Opening Night/Banner Unveiling: Oct. 8 vs. Bruins

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