The Florida Panthers didn’t even come close to making the playoffs this season and are on the verge of an embarrassing record.
These kind of campaigns are the norm in Florida, but there was hope that GM Dale Tallon could change that after his work laying the foundation for the Chicago Blackhawks’ near dynasty level of success. Although he did oversee the Panthers as they made the playoffs in 2012 for the first time in more than a decade, Florida descended right back to its losing ways.
“I’ve got to do a better job, simple as that,” Tallon told the Sun-Sentinel.
Tallon admitted that the organization overestimated certain players and they’ve lacked the depth to cope with the injuries that have come their way.
“This year, it’s just a matter of relying on an 18-year-old (Aleksander Barkov) and 21-year-old (Nick Bjugstad) to be top-line centers,” Tallon said. “That’s tough on them. It’s tough on everyone. And they were our best players.”
At the same time, he’s upbeat because he expects to be able to spend to the salary cap ceiling under new owner Vinnie Viola. The Panthers are projected to have somewhere in the range of $30 million in cap space going into the summer, so they can afford to be aggressive on the free agent market.
Of course, luring players to a team that has only made the playoffs once in the 21st century might be a challenge, but Tallon is hoping that the acquisition of goaltender Roberto Luongo will prove to free agents that the team is committed to winning in the near future.
The flip side to all this is that, if the Panthers really do spend to the cap, then expectation for Tallon will rise as well. In the past, Tallon had to make do with less resources than other teams. If Florida is spending as much as any other squad, then that won’t be an excuse going forward.