Three high-profile junior hockey players will forever remember the final hours leading up to 2004 NHL lockout as a time they agreed to their first professional contracts.
Forwards Anthony Stewart and Ryan Getzlaf signed pacts with the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks, respectively, while the Calgary Flames have come to terms with defenceman Dion Phaneuf.
All three players finalized three-year, entry-level contracts before the NHL's collective bargaining agreement with its players expired at midnight ET Wednesday.
The trio also were members of the 2004 Canadian junior team that won a silver medal at the world championships in Helsinki, Finland, in January.
- NHL players locked out; season in doubt
- Player bio: Anthony Stewart
- Player bio: Ryan Getzlaf
- Player bio: Dion Phaneuf
Stewart, a 19-year-old Toronto native and former star with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, tied for the tournament lead in scoring with five goals and six assists in six games.
Florida's second choice in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the six-foot-one-inch, 225-pound Stewart had 35 goals and 58 points in 53 regular-season games with Kingston last season.
"Anthony is a powerful young forward who plays aggressively, but also possesses a scoring touch," Panthers general manager Mike Keenan said Thursday in a statement.
"He is a valuable part of the future of the Panthers organization and we look forward to watching him grow and develop into a NHL calibre player."
Getzlaf, 19, was drafted 19th overall by Anaheim in 2003. He went on to lead the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen in scoring last season with 28 goals and 47 assists for 75 points in 49 games.
Getzlaf, from Regina, also was named to the WHL's first all-star team.
The Flames made Phaneuf, 19, the ninth overall choice in 2003.
He was named an all-star at the 2004 world junior tourney after recording two goals and two assists.
"We feel that if the season was in place Dion Phaneuf would be playing on our hockey team," Flames GM Darryl Sutter said in a statement. "He is the top defenceman in the Western Hockey League."
The six-foot-two-inch, 205-pound native of Edmonton posted 19 goals and 43 points in 62 regular-season games with the Red Deer Rebels last season.
with files from Canadian Press