June 1, 2011: Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers new head coach Kevin Dineen (left) and executive vice president

Dale Tallon Being Prudent By Sticking To His Plan.

With the uncertainty of the CBA for the NHL looming in the balance of the summer, it hasn’t stopped NHL GM’s and owners from handing out piles of money to players in order to attract them to their respective teams.  There have been a few outlandish contracts, many that have made you scratch your head, and a few that make sense.  Based on the activity up to this point however, there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of funds even though ownership has requested a player cut back on revenue with their initial proposal.

All the while Florida Panther general manager Dale Tallon has stuck to his game plan by not wavering, and handing out truckloads of money to players that don’t fit the roster he’s trying to build.  Granted some of the free agents that have signed would have looked mighty fine wearing the Cat on their chest.  But Dale has a plan, and he’s sticking to it, and I have to commend him for it.

One reason that Dale and the Panthers have been so frugal if you will is that for the second consecutive year, the Panther’s prospect pool has been voted number one in the NHL. With players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Quinton Howden, Nick Bjugstad and the recently drafted Michael Matheson, the young talent that’s been assembled so smartly by Dale and his staff promises a very bright future here in South Florida.

While many fans have been running out of patience, knowing the next few seasons should feature up and coming stars being added yearly, gives hope to a once down and out franchise.  While we wait for these players to get ready for NHL action, Dale has gone about building a roster of players that all seem to have one thing in common.  Character. Players such as Brian Campbell, Ed Jovanovski, and Jose Theodore who were signed last season, bring a wealth of experience, and leadership to a team that was starving for direction on the ice.  The youthful exuberhance of Kris Versteeg and Erik Gudbranson, to go along with recently signed Peter Mueller give all of the South Florida faithful an air of excitement as we await the start of the upcoming season.

Dale, who in the past was not shy about spending money, or signing players to long term contracts, still operates with the same guile that he had in Chicago, however, he’s using a touch more restraint in the free agent department, and you must give him credit for doing so.  While the prospect pool in Chicago was very good, it may not have been as deep as Florida’s is currently.  The Hawks had the benefit of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane develop as up and coming superstars, to go along with players like Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, to help lead them to a Stanley Cup championship.

Dale’s plan is the same, yet he appears to be doing it with a touch more frugality, and patience.  Rightfully so.  He’s shown significant restraint in not handing out lengthy deals for exhorbitant amounts of money to players that don’t deserve it, and who don’t fit the mold of player he wants.  The Zach Parise and Ryan Suter deals aside, there have been a number of signings which I’m glad we didn’t end up making. 

Matt Carle, Dennis Wideman, Olli Jokinen, and of course the whopping one year deal that was given to Alexander Semin are just a few examples of contracts that I’m glad we aren’t paying for. Sure there were a few deals that we missed out on such as P.A. Parenteau and Jiri Hudler, but Dale is thinking long term, and not quick fix.  He’s building through the draft and supplementing with trades and free agency.

I also think that once we did not resign Wojtek Wolski, there was no way we were going to sign Alexander Semin.  Two players who are somewhat similar in that they are both talented, although Semin’s skill is superior, but both players have a history of disappearing, and being non factors when their teams need them most.  I get it, and I’m not upset about it.

At this point I think that with the remaining free agents left (here’s the top 30 remaining from NHL.com), you narrow down your selection to one of these three players.  Mike Knuble (suggested by Dave Lasseter), a gritty veteran who has a ton of leadership, and can provide scoring at the third line, and or second if need be should he be required to.  Jason Arnott who is a big center that can win faceoffs, and still has a good scoring touch for a player his age (37), and is a former Stanley Cup winner.  Tom Kostopoulos, a rugged, gritty forward who is one of the most aggressive forecheckers in the game, and is extremely solid on the penalty kill, and can chip in some scoring too.

Any of these three players will provide depth, leadership, hustle and the one thing that Dale is focused on…character.

We’ll be entering year three of the “blueprint”.  Taking a step forward by adding certain role players who know their role and can be trusted with their role is signifcantly less troublesome that acquiring a player with a hefty contract or a sketchy past.  Taking on bloated salaries is not something the Panthers need to do right now, as that would handcuff them from making future moves. 

Building the roster the proper way with the right mix of individuals that have the perfect combination of veteran leadership, skill, and character is what this team needs.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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Tags: Alexancer Semin Dale Tallon Florida Panthers Mike Knuble Stanley Cup The Blueprint Tom Kostopoulos

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