Dale Tallon has made it clear that the Florida Panthers have it in their budget to chase high-end free agents during the offseason.
Hearing those words come out of Dale Tallon’s mouth is pretty joyful, and quite refreshing too. It’s been a while since the Panthers have been able to sign marquee free agents, with the last time being two summers ago. But if you flashback way into the past, when have the Panthers really been on the radar for a big summer signing?
Historically, the Cats have never ‘really’ had it in their budget to spend big on free agents. Their method in the past for building up their team was through the draft and what they could afford via trade. That method failed miserably, with many draft picks botched, trades made that were unnecessary, and the failure to set up a good farm system in the AHL. All of this was done before the Dale Tallon era. But it’s also worth noting that Tallon made his fair share of mistakes, striking out on several first round picks in the past, as well as free agent signings.
However, what’s fruitful to know is that it’s really in the Panthers’ budget to spend, as they’re spending with what they have available versus spending with what they don’t have (which isn’t the case). Dale Tallon made it very clear that he’s identified certain players that he likes (thinks would fit in) as well as fall into the budget plan set out for the Cats during the offseason:
"“We’ve identified and we like certain players. We have it in our budget. We’re going to do what we can to improve our team.” – Dale Tallon on approaching Free Agency"
Notable UFAs upfront would be John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk, James Neal, Rick Nash, and even Evander Kane, while at the back you have John Carlson, Mike Green, Calvin de Haan, and Ian Cole. While all these names sound intriguing to pursue, the Cats must be careful on who they throw long-term offers to.
If we breakdown what happens (on a few), John Tavares receives a deal in the field of 10 years, $12+ million AAV (annually); JVR signs for 6-7 years at $6M AAV (or more); James Neal and Evander Kane each get similar terms in ranges of 5-7 years at $6M and/or $6.5M respectively, while John Carlson breaks the bank at 8 years, $8M AAV (or more), and Mike Green receives his final payday of his career at 6 years, $7M AAV (or potentially more).
Theoretically speaking, if this happens come July 1st, or somewhere in between this prediction, the Florida Panthers should have NO business throwing out any offers to these candidates. Cap space should be saved for the core young players, and not for a 30-year-old rental piece (minus Tavares of course, as he’s a legitimate franchise player). The Cats should avoid getting stuck with long-term deals, and should turn their focus over to a target who would be worth a reasonably priced deal (annual salary and term).
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That target would be Calvin de Haan, left-handed defenseman on the New York Islanders who is set to become a UFA this summer. First off, de Haan fits a need for the Florida Panthers which is to add another reliable top four pair defenseman. de Haan is solid defensively, and would add stability to the Panthers’ backline. Calvin’s only concern is his injury issues, where the 26-year-old only participated in 33 games last season (2017-18), missing a big chunk due to an upper-body injury.
Apart from all of this, the great thing about targeting de Haan is the price as to which we could sign him at. An offer in the field of 3-4 years at $4M annually should be enough to entice Calvin to come bring his talents over to Sunrise, Florida. A deal like this is something that wouldn’t hurt the Panthers’ cap, leaving more than enough room to re-sign their RFAs (like Jared McCann and Frank Vatrano), and potentially sign or trade for another player.
On the flip side, if the Cats are looking to acquire another top six winger, it realistically should be via trade where the Panthers can offer an asset or two, and not have to worry about offering the player a contract (with the presumption that he’s under contract). That way, the Panthers get the player they need and want who’s under contract, and only part way with assets that they don’t really want, need, or regret losing.
Come July 1st, Dale Tallon has the opportunity to strengthen this Panthers roster. While there’s enough in the budget (cap space) to spend, Dale must not spend for the sake of spending, and rather spend to address needs over wants. It’ll be interesting to see what goes down on Free Agent Frenzy Day, with hopes that the Cats bolster their roster and don’t get tied down on long-term deals.