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Panthers Sign First-Round Pick

Center Mike Brown, the Florida Panthers' first-round pick in the 1997 draft, signed with the team Thursday.

Terms were not disclosed by the Panthers, who also inked journeyman center Viacheslav Butsayev.

The 19-year-old Brown went to Florida with the 20th-overall pick last year. He had 23 goals and 33 assists in 72 games with Kamloops, ranking third in the Western Hockey League with 305 penalty minutes.

"Mike Brown is a big, strong, tough kid from the WHL. He does up and down the wing well and will add size and toughness to the organization," said general manager Bryan Murray. "Hopefully in the future he can score some goals for us."

The 28-year-old Butsayev spent last season with Fort Wayne of the International Hockey League and led the team with 87 points on 36 goals and 51 assists in 76 games. He has 17 goals and 25 assists in 124 NHL games with Philadelphia, San Jose and Anaheim.

A former member of the Soviet Red Army team, Butsayev has not played in the NHL since 1995-96, when he had one goal in seven games with the Mighty Ducks.

"He is a big, strong kid who has a nasty streak to him," said assistant GM Chuck Fletcher. "We hope that he can come in and give us a few games and provide some offense for us."

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