In just a few hours, general managers from all 30 NHL teams will be working the phones, trying to lure free agents to play for their organization. Some will use the tradition of their franchise to pitch to them. Some will pitch their future. Some will just give them a check with an insane crooked number followed by a bunch of zeros behind it. But, if you’re Dale Tallon, location should be a big part of his sales pitch to potential Florida Panthers.
Last year, Tallon used himself and his reputation to convince Brian Campbell to waive his no-trade clause on draft day to become the biggest part of the Panthers immediate turnaround. As a side effect, non-hockey factors made this an even better decision on Campbell’s part. With no state income tax, he put a little bit more of his $7.1 million salary into his bank account than he would living in Illinois as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. And by little, I’m talking in the neighborhood of $600,000 that ends up in his pockets instead of the state coffers.
His trade was a precursor to an unprecedented free agent frenzy just a week later. Now, as we found out last year, the Panthers are still probably going to have to overpay at this stage of the franchise’s renaissance, it’s a nice bonus to not only say not only will we pay you more but you’ll be able to keep more of it. Now, no doubt that the Campbell trade and the promise of an organization on the rise had much to do with that. But don’t think for a second that every player agent isn’t aware of the no income tax and isn’t factoring that in to help his client reach a decision. When you’re talking an extra half million in salary, it certainly will end up being a big factor in a player’s decision if he’s on the fence of where to sign.
And if you’re going to sell Florida, you’re going to sell the weather. In other sports, this is a slam dunk (see what I did there?) but for a true winter sport, it may not be as easy as it seems. Being that more than 50 % of the player base in the NHL is from Canada and many of the American player base is from the northern US, you’re talking about guys who’ve grown up with real winters and probably have hundreds of stories of playing on a frozen pond. If you’ve been in Florida long, you know there are two seasons here: Hot and Not As Hot. Depending on the fondness of snow, ice and traditional northern winters of the player, it could be a double-edged sword. To use Campbell as an example once again, talking to him during the course of the season, he mentioned on more than one occasion how nice it is to head to the rink wearing shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops. And it bears pointing out that not one player who lives in Weston or Coral Springs has had a snow plow block their car in their driveway.
And when talking about South Florida, the inevitable “taking my talents to South Beach” line gets brought up but, for a younger player without a wife/kids of his own, it’s not exactly a bad selling point. Imagine the sales pitch that tells a young player that he’ll make more money playing for a team on the rise, not have to shovel snow, be tan year round and you’ll live less than hour from the meeting point of beautiful people from all over the world. On the surface, some of that might sound a bit shallow but compare that to a winter in Minneapolis or Winnipeg and you can see how it might be viable selling point.
Up until Tallon was hired three off-seasons ago, what this state has to offer off the ice didn’t matter because top players just didn’t consider coming here because of the instability and perception of the organization. But thanks to three solid drafts, a top-rated prospect pool, a division title and the first playoff appearance in more than a decade, Tallon has a couple of extra cards to play when making his pitch to bring players down to Sunrise.
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