Gopher Hockey: Bjugstad signs with Florida Panthers, Budish to Nashville


The depth of talent at the top of the University of Minnesota men’s hockey roster is so good that every NHL club seems to want in on Don Lucia’s team. Two more Golden Gophers with eligibility remaining were announced to have signed professional contracts on Wednesday.

Forwards Nick Bjugstad (Blaine, Minn.) and Zach Budish (Edina, Minn.) both agreed to terms with the organizations that held their NHL entry draft rights.

Bjugstad leaves Minnesota to join the Florida Panthers. The first round pick at No. 19 overall by the Panthers in 2010 is likely to be on the ice for his new team as early as Saturday in Miami, Fla. versus the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals signed fellow Gopher junior Nate Schmidt on Tuesday.

A super-sized junior, Bjugstad came to Minnesota early after accelerating his high school education at Blaine High School. He was expected to make a bolt for the pros last season, but the NHL lock-out kept Bjugstad on-campus.

Terms of Bjugstad’s entry-level contract were not released by the organization.

The red-shirt junior Budish signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Nashville Predators and is believed to be reporting to the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee very soon.

The Budish contract is a two-way agreement which means that he can be moved between the Milwaukee Admirals and the Predators without a contract re-negotiation. His annual salary with the organization is reported to be worth $575,000. No mention of a signing bonus was released by Nashville.

The captain of the Gophers was a second round pick at No. 41 overall in 2009 by the Predators. Budish missed most of his sophomore year at Minnesota due to a severe knee injury sustained in a moped crash on-campus in 2010.

Both Bjugstad and Budish were tied for third overall in scoring on the season for Minnesota with 36 points respectively. Bjugstad led the team in goals with 21.

Minnesota’s leading scorer on the season Erik Haula is the next Gopher player with eligibility remaining to likely leave for the NHL. Haula NHL rights are owned by the Minnesota Wild.