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Panthers sign veteran centre Scott Gomez to one-year contract

San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns (88) celebrates a goal with Scott Gomez (23) against the Dallas Stars during the second period of their NHL hockey game, Sunday, April 7, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. The Florida Panthers have signed Gomez to a one-year contract. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bay Area News Group, Josie Lepe MAGS OUT; NO SALES

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San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns (88) celebrates a goal with Scott Gomez (23) against the Dallas Stars during the second period of their NHL hockey game, Sunday, April 7, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. The Florida Panthers have signed Gomez to a one-year contract. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bay Area News Group, Josie Lepe MAGS OUT; NO SALES

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers have signed centre Scott Gomez to a one-year contract.

The Alaska native had 15 points in 39 games for San Jose last season. The Sharks signed Gomez after the Montreal Canadiens bought out his lucrative and controversial contract after the NHL lockout.

Gomez became a lightning rod for criticism in Montreal, where his production drastically declined.

In 2007, he signed a seven-year, US$51.5-million contract as an unrestricted free agent with the New York Rangers.

Two years later, the Canadiens then-GM Bob Gainey hailed Gomez as the centrepiece of a rebuilding program after acquiring him in a seven-player deal that sent, among others, top defence prospect Ryan McDonagh to New York.

He had 59 points in his first year in Montreal in 2009-10, 38 the next and, while battling injuries, dropped to two goals and nine assists in 38 games in his final season with the Habs.

That lack of scoring coupled with the hefty contract the Canadiens inherited from the New York Rangers made Gomez a popular target for Montreal fans.

His goal on Feb. 9, 2012 against the New York Islanders ended a scoring drought that dated to Feb. 5 the previous year. Some fans had set up a mock count-down clock to "celebrate" the anniversary.

Gomez has drafted 27th overall by New Jersey in 1998 and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year in 1999-2000.

He won Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003 with the Devils and had a career-best 84 points in 2005-06.

Gomez has 171 goals and 530 assists in 941 games with the Devils, Rangers, Canadiens and Sharks.

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