The Florida Panthers signed four-time all-star center Joe Nieuwendyk and left wing Gary Roberts away from the Toronto Maple Leafs yesterday, less than two hours into the free agent signing period.

Both players were unrestricted free agents and the first to agree to contracts after the signing period began at noon.

Nieuwendyk had 22 goals and 28 assists in 64 games with the Maple Leafs in 2003-04, but he missed parts of the year with back problems. Nieuwendyk signed a one-year, $3 million contract with Toronto last spring, before the season was wiped out by the lockout.

Nieuwendyk, 38, has won Stanley Cups with New Jersey, Calgary and Dallas and has 533 goals and 529 assists in his 18-year career.

Roberts, 39, had 20 goals and 28 assists with the Maple Leafs in 2003-04 and was named to the all-star team that season. Nieuwendyk and Roberts were also teammates with the Calgary Flames. . . .

Former Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Randy Carlyle is the new Anaheim Mighty Ducks coach, a source within the NHL said.

Carlyle, 49, replaces Mike Babcock, who left the Ducks to become the Detroit Red Wings' coach. . . .

Boston acquired forward Brad Isbister from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for the Bruins' fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft.

* COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Prosecutors dropped a felony aggravated assault charge against one Tennessee football player and reduced the charge against another in a case stemming from a fight at a campus party last March.

Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers and linebacker Jerod Mayo, who both redshirted last season as freshmen, were charged with hitting a fellow student when several fights broke out between football players and fraternity members.

The charge against Mayo was dismissed after a witness would not cooperate with prosecutors.

The charge against Ayers was reduced to misdemeanor assault. . . .

Florida A&M volunteered to strip its football program of 28 scholarships over three years and impose a one-year postseason ban on its men's basketball team next season as the school conceded a "widespread" lack of institutional control in an internal report released yesterday.

The school fired football coach Billy Joe several weeks ago as part of its effort to avoid additional penalties for more than 200 violations that surfaced in nearly every varsity sport at the historically black college. The university's findings revealed more than 100 athletes were allowed to compete without filling out eligibility or drug-testing consent forms required by the NCAA.

Florida A&M said it would vacate any team or individual records or awards resulting from performances by ineligible athletes between 1998 and 2005.

Former University of Miami and Denver Broncos defensive tackle Rubin Carter was named Joe's replacement last month.

-- From News Services