Panthers release Sheppard, Shtalenkov

SUNRISE, Fla., June 30 -- The Florida Panthers announced Friday they would not pick up the contract options of veteran right wing Ray Sheppard and backup goaltender Mikhail Shtalenkov, making them unrestricted free agents.

Sheppard, 34, recorded 10 goals and 10 assists in 47 games for Florida last season after signing with the team in November. It was his second stint with the Panthers, having played 143 games for them from the 1995-96 through the 1997-98 seasons.


A former 50-goal scorer for Detroit, Sheppard has 357 goals and 300 assists in 817 NHL games, also playing with Carolina, San Jose, the New York Rangers and Buffalo.

Shtalenkov, 34, was acquired mid-season from Phoenix and went 8-4-2 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in a combined 15 games for the two teams.

The Russian also has played for Edmonton after spending his first five seasons with Anaheim and is 55-76-17 during his seven-year NHL career.

Florida offered qualifying contract offers to eight Group 2 free agents, including center Rob Niedermayer and left wings Ray Whitney and Peter Worrell, giving the team a right to match any offer from other teams.


If a Group 2 player ends up elsewhere, his previous team can receive draft pick compensation.

If a player is above the league's average salary, the qualifying offer is the same as the previous year's salary. If he is below the league average, the offer includes a 10 percent raise.

Niedermayer is the only one of the eight players offered qualifying deals that made more than the average salary last season.

The others to receive qualifying offers were center Eric Boguniecki, left wing Dave Duerden and defensemen Dan Boyle, Rocky Thompson and Joey Tetarenko.

Left wing Alex Hicks, defenseman Jeff Ware and center Andrew Long were not offered contracts, making them unrestricted free agents as of Saturday. Also becoming unrestricted free agents were left wing Chad Cabana and right wings Paul Brousseau and Craig Reichert.

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