Dale Tallon

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Pressure is on Tallon for Panthers to win after big offseason

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Florida Panthers. 

Even with their lack of recent success there has still been a lot to like about this Florida Panthers team.

Aleksander Barkov is one of the best all-around players in the world and just now entering his prime years. He is a star and a cornerstone player that you should be able to build a championship contending team around.

Along with him, the Panthers just finished the 2018-19 season as a top-10 offensive team and have a pretty promising core of forwards in Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Mike Hoffman and Evgeni Dadonov. When combined with Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle on defense, there is a foundation here they should be able to compete with. What’s even better is that a lot of those core players (specifically Barkov and Huberdeau) are signed long-term to team-friendly contracts under the salary cap.

The key was going to be for general manager Dale Tallon and the front office to put the right people around them to allow that to happen. That was the mission for this offseason.

[MORE: 2018-19 summary | Three Questions | X-Factor]

The only question that matters for the Panthers — and Tallon specifically — is if he acquired the right people.

Among the new additions to the organization…

  • The hiring of Joel Quenneville, a three-time Stanley Cup winning and future Hall of Fame coach that has a history of success with Tallon.
  • One of the biggest free agent signings of the offseason in starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky on a massive seven-year, $70 million contract. In the short-term it could be a huge addition and maybe even help put the Panthers back in the playoffs. Given Bobrovsky’s age, inevitable decline, and size of the contract it could also become a long-term headache.
  • The additional free agent signings of defender Anton Stralman (three years, $16.5 million) and forward Brett Connolly (four years, $14 million)

Those are some big contracts, all of them carrying varying degrees of long-term risk. It will probably become very apparent very early in the process if they are going to make a positive impact on getting the Panthers to where they want to be. That means Tallon’s long-term future with the team could be riding on the success or failure of those signings.

Tallon has been in a position of power with the Panthers since 2010 and during that time the team has seen its roster get overhauled, is now on its seventh different head coach, and has just two playoff appearances (and only five playoff victories) to show for that time. Given the talent the Panthers have at the top of the lineup, the high-profile coach they just hired, and the money they handed out this offseason (not to mention the eight-year contract defenseman Mike Matheson just signed a year ago) the expectation has to be for the Panthers to win, and to win right now.

The longer the team goes without winning, the more likely it is more changes get made and the Panthers are running out of people to change before they get to Tallon. You can’t trade every player, and it makes little sense to trade a Barkov or Huberdeau because the rest of the team isn’t good enough.

Quenneville is going to get some kind of an extended leash to start because of his resume and the fact he literally just arrived.

That leaves the person responsible for the final say over what the team looks like.

In the end the Bobrovsky contract will probably be what makes or breaks Tallon’s tenure in Florida.

If the Panthers get the Vezina-caliber goalie he was in Columbus it might be enough to propel them back to the playoffs this season and beyond.

If they do not get that goalie it is probably going to be more of the same for the Panthers on the ice, leaving the team with a pricey goalie on the wrong side of 30. That simply will not be good enough.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: ‘Gloria’ cease-and-desist; Tallon on the hot seat

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Philly bar where ‘Play Gloria’ began has sent cease-and-desist letters to St. Louis retailers selling merch. (KMOV4)

• Herb Carnegie could have been first black NHL player, according to a letter from the 1940s. (NHL.com)

• Golden Knights offseason will be a failure if they don’t sign Nikita Gusev. (Knights on Ice)

• There’s one thing missing from the Carolina Hurricanes’ otherwise successful summer. (News & Observer)

• If the Panthers don’t get results, it could be Dale Tallon who’s out the door. (The Rat Trick)

• What’s happening in Los Angeles? (Jewels from the Crown)

• What is it going to take to get a deal done with Brock Boeser? (The Hockey News)

• An update on the contract negotiating statuses of Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

• The Golden Knights wanted Micheal Ferland. (Sin.Bin Vegas)

Phillip Danault rose to the occasion last season. (Eyes on the Prize)

• Raleigh is ready for outdoor hockey. (Cardiac Cane)

• A look at the comparables for Sam Bennett‘s next contract. (Flames Nation)

• What is wrong with NHL hockey. (Blue Line Station)

Julius Honka could be a worthwhile trade option for Toronto. (Tip of the Tower)

• How close did the Columbus Blue Jackets come to offer sheeting Mitch Marner? (Sportsnet)

Anthony Beauvillier and agent talk contract. (Eyes on Isles)

• His last name includes ‘Stud’ and Jack Studnicka the next great hope for the Bruins at center. (NBC Sports Boston)

• How short-handed icing could lead to more goal scoring. (On the Forecheck)

• A look at the center market still left in free agency. (Two in the Box)

• Kevin Dineen named coach of the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. (Anaheim Ducks)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Tallon addresses Panthers’ needs, confident about playoff chances

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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.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Panthers land Bobrovsky, and now thinking big

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Florida won its offseason. Now it is all about the postseason.

The Panthers’ offseason transformation is essentially complete after free agency netted them four players Monday. The biggest move was the signing of two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who signed a seven-year, $70 million deal and will replace the now-retired Roberto Luongo as Florida’s top goaltender.

Also added: defenseman Anton Stralman, and forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari. All told, the Panthers committed $104.5 million Monday and general manager Dale Tallon was thrilled to add four players with playoff experience.

”All we’re trying to do is make our team better for the long haul,” Tallon said. ”And whatever that plan was, we stuck with it and we were very successful at getting it done, I think.”

The Panthers were aiming at landing perhaps the two biggest free agents on this year’s market by talking last week with both Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin. When it became evident that Panarin wasn’t picking Florida – he ultimately chose the New York Rangers – Tallon and the Panthers pivoted in other directions.

All four of the new signees will be in South Florida for their formal introductions Tuesday, joined by new coach Joel Quenneville. The Panthers’ offseason started with the hiring of Quenneville – a three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach who Tallon considers the best in the game. The Panthers now have a top-tier goalie to help the plans for a turnaround.

”It’s been great so far,” Tallon said of the offseason. ”We’ve got work to do and we’ve got to keep improving every day and that’s what we’re all about.”

A clear sign of how much better Florida thinks it can be immediately with Bobrovsky between the pipes: He led the NHL with nine shutouts last season. That’s one more shutout than the Panthers have had, total, in the last two seasons combined. And if nothing else, Florida won’t have to face him anymore – Bobrovsky is 13-1-2 all-time against the Panthers.

”He’s a two-time Vezina Trophy winner and he gives you a chance to win every night,” Tallon said. ”He’s durable. He’s a student of the game. Nobody works harder.”

So now it’s up to Quenneville and Bobrovsky to lead the way in Florida’s annual quest to shake out of its long playoff slump. The Panthers haven’t won a series since 1996, but believe they are finally in position – with an offensive core led by Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau – to become contenders for years to come.

”We have plenty of scoring ability, we have plenty of offense,” Tallon said. ”We had to address physicality and goals-against. Those were the biggest concerns we had and I think we did a good job addressing those needs.”

Tallon ready to be aggressive in free agency for Panthers

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The hiring of Joel Quenneville was the first move in what Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon is hoping will be a big off-season for the franchise. Now with the beginning of the free agency period 10 days away, he has a message to those players who might be interested in joining the team.

“Well, I hope those people have a lot of sunscreen,” Tallon said on Thursday. “Come down to Florida, it’s nice and hot. We’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to do the right thing and hope the chips fall where they may. But we’re going to make sure we’re in there and be aggressive.”

The Panthers missed the playoffs for the third straight season and with a projected $20M in cap space, per Cap Friendly, and no real big extensions to hand out in-house, Tallon is ready to dive into the free agent market and land some big fish. 

“We’ve got the full support of [Panthers owner] Vinnie Viola,” Tallon said. “He wants me to be aggressive in free agency and wants to spend to the [salary cap ceiling], so we’re going to do what the boss wants us to do. I’m happy with that. With our new coaching staff and the flexibility we have, we’re very optimistic about our future.”

[Salary cap could spawn NHL trade frenzy]

General managers are still waiting to find out the final salary cap numbers for the 2019-20 NHL season, but spending to whatever the limit ends up being will be music to Panthers fans’ ears. Quenneville’s hiring was huge, but now Tallon needs to deliver on the goal of an aggressive summer reshaping the roster. Roberto Luongo‘s future is in doubt and those rumors of Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin coming to Sunrise as a pair linger.

“I want to sell our wares and tell them where we’re headed and what we’re doing in the marketplace,” Tallon said. “Yeah, I’d love them to know [Quenneville] and I face to face. We have a solid culture there now. We’ve got a coach in place for the next five years. Vinnie Viola’s committed, we’re staying there. We have got stability all through the organization and we’re committed to winning, and those are the things that we want to say, regardless of where we’re located.  

“You could be located anywhere. If you’re not committed, it doesn’t matter. We have to let people know and show them that we are committed.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.