The NHL Trade deadline is set for April 3rd and with the Panthers barely in contention for a playoff spot there is a good chance the team will be very busy in the upcoming weeks. I thought now would be a good time to take a closer look at the man behind the curtain, Dale Tallon. Tallon is the Panthers’ general manager and is most famous for building the Chicago Blackhawks from a last place team to the eventual stanley cup winners in 2010.
In order to get a better understanding of what to expect from the Panthers as we approach the deadline, I am going back through Tallon’s years as a general manager and analyzing all of his trade deadline moves. In Part 1 I will look at the Chicago Blackhawk years and in Part 2 I will look at what Tallon has done at the trade deadline since taking over the Panthers on May 17, 2010.
So where to begin? Dale Tallon had a 10 year playing career as an NHL defenseman from 1970 to 1980. After he retired from the league, Tallon took a job as a radio and television analyst for the Chicago Blackhawks. In 1998 Tallon was added to the Blackhawks’ front office and on June 21st, 2005 he was named the team’s general manager. (Source) Unrelated but interesting nonetheless, Tallon is also a very good golfer having won the 1969 Canadian Junior Golf Championship and also having played on the Canadian PGA Tour. (Source)
2005-06 Season: (65 points, 14th Western Conference)
The Chicago Blackhawks were in definite need of rebuilding when Tallon took over before the 05-06 season. The Blackhawks finished the 05-06 season with a record of 26-43-13. They only managed 65 points which was third fewest in the NHL that year. The trade deadline was set on March 9th, 2006 of that season and Dale Tallon was active making three trades on deadline day.
Trade Deadline March 9th, 2006:
March 9th: Chicago Blackhawks trade Jim Dowd to the Colorado Avalanche and receive a 2006 4th round pick (111th) in return.
Jim Dowd was a veteran at the tail end of his career. Dowd only played in 157 games after the trade tallying only 11 goals and 10 assists. The Blackhawks packaged the 111th pick that they received from Colorado in a later trade with the Maple Leafs. The Blackhawks sent the 111th and 99th picks in the 2006 Draft to Toronto in exchange for the Leafs’ 3rd round (76th) pick.
With the 76th pick in the 2006 draft, Chicago selected Tony Lagerstrom who is currently playing in Sweeden. The Leafs took Korbinian Holzer with the 111th pick and goalie James Reimer with the 99th pick. The defenseman Holzer has played in 19 games with the Leafs this season while Reimer has been to go to guy in net.
March 9th: Chicago Blackhawks trade Todd Simpson to the Montreal Canadiens and receive a 2006 6th round pick (169th) in return.
Todd Simpson was another player on the tail end of his career when Tallon traded him. Simpson recorded 3 assists in 45 games with the Blackhawks during the 2005-06 season. With the Canadiens, Simpson played six games and he would not appear in the NHL after the 05-06 season.
The 6th round draft pick netted the Blackhawks Chris Auger in the 2006 Draft. Auger never made it to the NHL.
At the time of the trade, Arnason was one of the teams top scorers with 13 goals and 28 assists. In 19 games with Ottawa, Arnason tallied four assists. He would played three more seasons in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche.
Brandon Bochenski was 24 at the time of the trade and scored 2 goals and 2 assists for the Blackhawks after coming over from Ottawa. Bochenski would play in 10 games during the 06-07 season and after bouncing around the AHL for a few years, he now plays in the KHL in Russia.
The Blackhawks selected Simon Danis-Pepsin with their second round pick in the 06 draft but Danis-Pepsin has yet to play in the NHL.
In Dale Tallon’s first trade deadline with the Blackhawks he made an effort to accumulate draft picks and young players. Even if the draft picks never panned out, Tallon was not losing much as he traded away players who were on the back ends of their careers and not likely to play in to future plans for the franchise. Tallon would use this strategy again with the Panthers in his first year as the team’s general manager, but we will get to that later.
2006-07 Season: (71 points, 13th Western Conference)
The Blackhawks poor record in 05-06 got the team the third pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and the team used that pick to select Jonathan Toews. Although Towes did not make his debut with the Blackhawks until the 07-08 season, the team improved upon their 65 points from the previous season. The Blackhawks finished with a record of 31-42-9 and while it was slow going, the pieces were beginning to fall into place for Chicago’s future success. In his second trade deadline with the team, Dale Tallon was again a busy man:
Trade Deadline Feb 27th, 2007:
Feb 3rd: Chicago Blackhawks trade Brandon Bochenski to Boston for Kris Versteeg and a conditional 5th round draft pick (not exercised)
Tallon flipped Bochenski, who they acquired at the deadline the previous year, for Kris Versteeg. We are all familiar with Versteeg now but at the time he had yet to play an NHL game. Versteeg would develop into a reliable offensive player and was a 20 goal scorer during the Blackhawk’s cup run in 2009-10.
The Blackhawks brought Kyle Calder, who had led the team in scoring during the 05-06 season, back into the fold only to flip him the same day to the Red Wings for Jason Williams. Although Calder was only 28 at the time of the trade, his best years were behind him. He recorded 14 points in 19 games for Detroit but has not played in the NHL since a short stint with the Ducks in 2009-10.
Kukkonen was a defenseman with 14 points in 54 games played for the Blackhawks before the trade to Philadelphia. Kukkonen did not record a point the remainder of the season for Philly and after playing parts of two seasons with the Flyers, he now plays in the Swedish Elite League.
The third round pick the Blackhawks traded was used to take Garrett Klotz. Klotz has spent time in the Flyers minor league system but has not yet appeared in the NHL.
Jason Williams was the player the Hawks ultimately got as a result of their dealings. The center scored four goals and two assists in his 20 games with Chicago after the trade. In the 07-08 season with the Blackhawks, he was a productive player tallying 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 43 games played. Williams signed with the Atlanta Thrashers the following year and is now out of the NHL.
Feb 26th: Chicago Blackhawks trade Bryan Smolinski to Vancouver Canucks for Second round pick in 2007 or 2008 draft (Blackhawks choice)
Bryan Smolinski was 35 at the time of the trade and had already experienced a productive career as an NHL forward. At the time of the trade, Smolinski had 37 points in 62 games with Chicago (14 goals, 23 assists). In 20 games with Vancouver Smolinski scored four goals and three assists. After the 06-07 season, Smolinski would play one more year in the NHL.
The Blackhawks elected to use their second round draft pick in the 2007 draft where they picked Akim Aliu with the 56th pick in the draft. The 23 year old winger never played for Chicago and is currently in the Calgary Flames system. He has appeared in two games for the Flames this season.
Nikita Alexeev played in 15 games for the Blackhawks, he scored two goals during that time. He has been playing in the KHL ever since.
Karl Stewart never made an impact in the NHL and currently plies his trade in Germany.
The Lightning took defenseman Luke Witkowski with the 160th pick in the 2008 Draft. Witkowski is currently playing in the NCAA with West Michigan. He is the 9th ranked defensive prospect for the Lightning according to hockeysfuture.com.
Again, Dale Tallon had an obvious strategy of loading up on young talent or on draft picks. While many of the players involved in these trades had little impact on the Blackhawks or the NHL in general, every once in a while you land a player like Kris Versteeg. At the time of the trades, the Versteeg deal would not have stood out among the rest. It was just another instance of Tallon trading for a young unproven player. The lesson is, you never know what exactly you are going to get when trading for unproven prospects. For every player like Versteeg, who played an important role on a Stanley Cup winning team, you get countless Alius and Alexeevs i.e. players that never make an impact. The best thing to do is to stockpile as much talent as possible and you are bound to hit every once in a while.
2007-08 Season: (88 points, 10th Western Conference)
The Chicago Blackhawks had the 1st pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and they used that pick on the supremely talented Patrick Kane. In his third season as the general manager, Dale Tallon finally had a core of young talented players. The team went 40-34-8 and missed the playoffs by three points. Kane led the team in scoring with 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists). Jonathan Toews also made his debut this season and finished third on the team in points with 54 (24 goals 30 assists). With his team not yet serious contenders but no longer in full out rebuild mode, Tallon was stuck between being a buyer and a seller at the trade deadline. Because of this, he was not as prolific at the deadline as he was in years past but still managed to land some nice pieces:
Trade Deadline Feb 26th, 2008:
Feb 26th: Chicago Blackhawks trade Martin Lapointeto the Ottawa Senators and receive a 2008 6th round draft pick (169th).
Martin Lapointe was playing in what turned out to be his last NHL season. He scored 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 52 games for Chicago and scored 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists) in 18 games following the trade to the Senators.
The Chicago Blackhawks drafted Ben Smith with their 2008 6th round draft pick. The 24 year old winger has played in brief spurts with the Blackhawks. Most notably, he scored three goals in 7 games during the 10-11 playoffs. He is currently with the Hawks AHL affiliate the Rockford Icehogs.
Andrew Ladd was a productive player on the Hawks stanley cup team scoring 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 09-10. Ladd was 23 at the time of the trade and was poised to have a strong future with Chicago but cap issues forced Chicago to trade him to the Atlanta Thrashers the year after winning the Cup. Ladd has developed into a consistent scorer with the newly relocated Winnipeg Jets and serves as the teams captain.
Tuomo Ruutu has been a productive forward for the Carolina Hurricanes eclipsing 50 points twice. He is currently out with a hip injury.
With a strong core of players firmly entrenched, Tallon was left to simply tinker with his team. The trade for Ladd was important because it gave the Blackhawks scoring depth and a young player who would be an important piece in the Hawks cup run.
2008-09 Season: (104 points, 4th Western Conference)
After three seasons of rebuilding under GM Dale Tallon, the Blackhawks finally made it to the playoffs. The team would advance to the Conference Finals but would fall to the Detroit Red Wings. By the March 3rd trade deadline, it was clear that Chicago had a strong team in place and would not have to make many additions. Tallon only made one trade at the deadline this year:
Trade Deadline March 3rd, 2009:
This trade ended up having an insignificant effect on the franchise going forward. Kontiola is currently playing in the KHL while Wisniewski is currently a productive defenseman for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This would be Tallon’s last trade deadline as the General Manager for the Chicago Blackhawks. Dale Tallon was demoted to a Senior Advisor position on July 14th, 2009. The Blackhawks would go on to win the Stanley Cup in the 2009-10 season with a team built almost exclusively by Tallon. The Blackhawks honored Tallon’s contribution to the Championship by engraving his name on the cup.
What can we take away from Dale Tallon’s trade deadline performances with the Blackhawks? First of all we know that Tallon will not be afraid to trade veteran players on a struggling team (see this year’s Florida Panther team) in return for young prospects and/or draft picks. If Tallon’s history tells us anything it is that many off the returns on these trades will not have much of an impact on the NHL, if any impact at all. This is simply the nature of the trade deadline; you are not going to rebuild an entire team through trades at the deadline. The Blackhawks added key players through the draft and through free agency and off-season trades. You can however add important pieces just as Tallon did with Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd. Not every trade is going to be a block buster but the trade deadline offers teams a chance to build for the future.
On May, 17th 2010 Dale Tallon was hired as the GM of the Florida Panthers. Tallon has often talked about a ‘blueprint’ he has for the longterm rebuilding of the Panthers into a perennial contender. In Part 2 of our Dale Tallon Trade Deadline Retrospective, we will look at how Tallon has used the Trade Deadline to help advance his ‘blueprint’.