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April 29, 2012 | 10:03am ET
Panthers want to stick together
TheFourthPeriod.com

A few days after being eliminated from their first playoff appearance in 11 seasons, the Panthers were trying to focus on the positives and looking ahead at a much calmer summer than last year's, the Miami Herald reports.

Although the team was one goal away from playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the conference semifinals, the Panthers are proudly looking forward to returning as a contender next season.

"This day is always tough, coming in and cleaning out your locker," veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski told the Herald. "It's always tough to say goodbye to the fellows. As a group, there were a lot of positives. [Being] a goal away from advancing is something to be proud of. But once you get a taste of it, you want more. We'll build from it."

Unlike last season, Panthers GM Dale Tallon has only a few personnel decisions to make, having 17 players under contract for the next season and holding the rights to four more. He also has access to young prospects, like forward Jonathan Huberdeau and netminder Jacob Markstrom, who could be in the lineup next year.

As for the club's free agents, blueliner Jason Garrison, whose two-year deal is up, is expected to command a big raise from the $675,000 salary he made last year. The 27-year-old had a career season with 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points in 77 games.

"Not one guy on this team doesn't want to be a part of this," Garrison told the paper.

Forward Kris Versteeg, who is a restricted free agent, is expected to undergo surgery to repair his hip on Wednesday. He has made it clear he wants to remain with the Panthers.

"I want a long-term deal," Versteeg told the Herald. "I would be lying if I said I didn't."

Other free agents include netminder Scott Clemmensen and forwards Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm, Krys Barch and John Madden.

Madden will require nasal surgery after colliding with teammate Tomas Kopecky during the first period of Game 7 against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

The veteran has lacerations under and above his blackened right eye as well as a number of stitches in his nose. Madden, who will turn 39 on Friday, stated that he wants to continue his NHL career.

"Having a collision with your teammate isn't the way you want to go out," Madden said. "I feel I have some hockey left in me and hopefully I'll find somewhere to play next year."

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