Dale Tallon’s quest to land both Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin fell short, but he was able to add one of them to the Florida Panthers’ roster for the next seven years.
Following Roberto Luongo’s retirement, it was clear that the main target for Tallon in free agency was a No. 1 goaltender. Enter Bobrovsky, who will turn 31 in September and has been on the Panthers’ radar since it was clear he wouldn’t be returning to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The general manager promised to be aggressive this summer and he backed that up by adding the netminder, forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari, as well as defenseman Anton Stralman.
That’s $107 million in contracts handed out on the first day of NHL free agency. Panthers owner Vinnie Viola was going to spend, especially after they were able to bring Joel Quenneville to Sunrise as head coach. Having Q on board almost helped them in their pursuit of Panarin given their history in Chicago, but Monday still ended up being a good day, at least in the immediate future.
Bobrovsky’s seven-year, $70 million contract will likely look ugly in a few years considering how most goaltenders tail off once they hit north of 30 years old. But the Panthers needed a further injection of excitement after hiring Quenneville.
“As a group we felt we needed to make some changes to our roster to get it deeper so we could make a good run for the playoffs. We addressed some needs,” Tallon said. “We have plenty of scoring ability, plenty of offense. We had to address compete, physicality and goals-against. Those were the concerns we had, and I think we did a good job of addressing those needs.”
[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]
Bobrovsky’s 115 wins over the last three seasons is tops in the NHL, and his .931 even strength save percentage over that span is second to only Pekka Rinne, per Natural Stat Trick.
“He’s a two-time Vezina Trophy winner who gives you a chance to win every night,” Tallon said. “He’s durable and is a very good player. He’s a student of the game. Nobody works harder so it will be interesting to see guys like [Aleksander] Barkov and Bobrovsky working off the ice like that. It will be a great example for our young players to follow.”
Tallon filled areas of need on Monday and with three months until the 2019-20 season begins, there’s still time to add. He’s confident of the strides the organization has made and how improved his roster looks at the moment — so much so that he sees the Panthers playing beyond game No. 82 next season.
“I like our chances now,” Tallon said. “I think we’ve got a legitimate chance to be in the playoffs. It starts behind the bench with [Quenneville] and then goaltending. I think our young [defensemen] will be better too with the coaching that Joel’s going to bring.
“And then our offense is going to be fine. We have pretty well the same guys. We’ll have a good power play, and we’ll have good special teams. Now it’s just a matter of 5-on-5 play. We’ve got more options in that regard and more durability longer term.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.