The Florida Panthers may be the worst team in the Eastern Conference, but the future appears bright, and it got a little brighter on Wednesday.
Florida signed center Nick Bjugstad to a three-year entry-level deal this afternoon. Bjugstad -- the Panthers' first pick, 19th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft -- elected to turn pro after his third season with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. He could potentially burn a year off the deal playing with the Panthers toward the end of the season, but can play without repercussions in the American Hockey League with the San Antonio Rampage.
Bjugstad scored 21 goals this season with Minnesota after potting 25 the season before. The 20-year-old forward also played on the 2011 and 2012 United States teams at the World Junior Championships. He joins a young crop of players and prospects in Sunrise that includes Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore, Jacob Markstrom and Rocco Grimaldi.