As the Florida Panthers head into yet another important offseason, how aggressive will Dale Tallon be this summer?
While most hockey fans are waiting in anticipation for the Stanley Cup Finals to get underway, GM’s of other teams are already planning for what appears to be an interesting and busy offseason. With the draft coming up, and free agency following shortly, the league is already in full swing of putting together teams for the 2018-19 season.
Among those GM’s is Dale Tallon. The steady GM for the Florida Panthers has led the Cat to two playoff appearances since he joined the Panthers back in 2010. Both of those playoff appearances were short-lived as both were bounced out of the playoffs in the 1st round.
But after the front office debacle during the 2016-17 season, the Panthers placed Tallon back in charge of the team in April of 2017. He made some questionable roster decisions, but ultimately, the team finished with 96 points. In any other year, the Panthers would’ve easily qualified for a spot, but in typical Panthers fashion, they still missed the playoffs by one single point.
After such a promising 2015-16 season in which the Panthers won the Atlantic Division, they now enter into next season sitting on a two-year absence from the playoffs. Due to the Vegas Golden Knights’ success, the Panthers have become the NHL’s national media punching bag. In order for the Panthers to put an end to this talk, they without a doubt have to make the postseason next year.
In for that to happen, the Panthers need to improve their roster. The roster they have is decent, maybe even good enough to squeak into the playoffs next year, but if the Panthers want to be one of the top teams in the league next season (which they have the potential to be), Dale Tallon should be aggressive this offseason in order to make this team a Stanley Cup contender. How great would it be to bring the Stanley Cup to South Florida next season, or at least win a few rounds in the playoffs?
On the offensive side of the ice, the Panthers need to address the glaring need of adding a top-six winger. While there are many options on the free agency market this year, the price of adding one will be sky-high. Unless the Panthers are targeting Tavares (which is unlikely), the Cats shouldn’t overpay for an offensive free agent this year.
Instead, Tallon should be aggressive in making deals to bring players to Sunrise via trade. Two players that Tallon should consider adding are Max Pacioretty and Jeff Skinner. Bringing in either of them or even both would make the Panthers’ offense stronger up front, giving Florida more scoring weapons to work with. Look out for draft night as the Panthers could possibly make a splash, and acquire another top-six forward (preferably a winger).
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On the defensive side, the Panthers could also use an upgrade. One of the reasons why the Panthers struggled at the beginning of the year was due to poor and sloppy defensive play. The Cats need to find a solid, two-way defenseman who can not only help offensively, but who can also play in a shutdown role.
Possibly the best free agent after Tavares is defenseman John Carlson. Carlson is in the midst of an amazing season, and has been a pivotal part of the Washington Capitals run to the Stanley Cup Finals. While Carlson isn’t known for his defensive play, we still know what the right-handed defenseman is all about, even if he isn’t particularly strong on the back end.
Preferably, a better target that would fit the Panthers’ needs would be Calvin de Haan of the New York Islanders, who is absolutely solid defensively, and who can play in a top-four role. For both need and cost, Calvin de Haan makes much more sense, and would come at a lower cost than John Carlson would.
Also, at the trade deadline this year, the Panthers were serious about adding Ryan McDonagh. Even though they didn’t acquire him, this shows that the Panthers are serious in adding an elite defenseman to the roster. Adding Carlson or de Haan wouldn’t come at the cost of losing players, prospects, or picks. But for cap flexibility moving forward and addressing a defensive need, Calvin de Haan fits the bill more than John Carlson would, which is why Tallon should be set on trying to sign de Haan this summer.
This is a crucial offseason for Dale Tallon and the Panthers as they try to improve their roster with a great core that they own. If the ownership gives Dale Tallon the green light to spend as much as he needs to, Tallon should do whatever he can to stack this team with good, quality players. Adding guys like Pacioretty, Skinner, or de Haan could be the stepping stone from just being a good team to being a great team.
The Florida Panthers have the core of becoming a great team. Now, they just need those extra pieces to fill out the rest of the roster, which would make them legit Stanley Cup contenders for the 2018-19 season, and beyond.