Panthers awash in cap space, not expected to make big free agent splash

daletallon1.jpgThe 2010 NHL free agency period is set to start at noon tomorrow and for a lot of teams, it’s a means to start fresh and forget about the previous season. For other teams, it offers the chance to correct problem areas that burned them in the playoffs and cost them a shot at the Stanley Cup. For teams like the Florida Panthers and new general manager Dale Tallon, it sometimes means having to play things close to the vest no matter how much salary cap space you’ve got to use as On Frozen Pond’s George Richards finds out.

“I don’t know how aggressive we’re going to be, but we’re going to try to get better and find players who make sense for us at this time,” said general manager Dale Tallon, whose team has 17 NHL regulars under contract for next season.

 

“I don’t think we’re going after the top guys, but good guys that can help us and not affect our future.”

 

The Panthers were about $7 million under the salary cap last season and are currently about $12 million under this year’s cap of $59.4 million. Florida still needs to sign a couple of its restricted free agents, but are said to have a budget under what was spent last season.

For a team that’s sorely needing quality depth, having $12 million to spend on getting it is a handsome luxury, of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll be going hog wild either.

 

“We’re going to look at everything and everyone,” Tallon said. “It’s important that we get better. A lot of guys are signed to long term deals so it’s harder to find that blue chip guy at the right price.”

Anyone thinking that Dale Tallon’s job in Florida was going to be a quick fix sort of thing was, of course, greatly mistaken. For what it’s worth, the Panthers do have a handful of good players in place right now with Stephen Weiss, David Booth, Dmitry Kulikov and their first round pick from the 2010 draft Erik Gudbranson. The Panthers will need more though, but luckily for them they’re in the Southeast Division where getting a few things to break your way can lead to making the playoffs.

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    Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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    Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

    They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

    Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

    Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

    You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

    Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

    Read about that blowout here.

    Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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    Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

    Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

    It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

    The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

    This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

    Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

    On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

    We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

    Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

    Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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    After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

    Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

    The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

    Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

    Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

    Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

    Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

    Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

    Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

    Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

    After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

    Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

    Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

    The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.