Florida Panthers: European Players Dale Tallon Should Consider Signing

SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 8: Florida Panthers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the team has named Joel Quenneville as head coach of the Panthers at the BB&T Center on April 8 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 8: Florida Panthers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the team has named Joel Quenneville as head coach of the Panthers at the BB&T Center on April 8 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers should be searching for cheap assets throughout the top European leagues this offseason.

Over the past few years, the Florida Panthers have not been able to scoop up a diamond in the rough out of Europe.

Other teams have already started adding European free agents this offseason with the Toronto Maple Leafs signing highly touted Russian winger Ilya Mikheyev and the Red Wings expected to sign 23-year-old Finnish defenseman Oliwer Kaski.

If the Panthers want to dip their toe into the overseas market, they’ll have to act fast before other teams swoop in and leave the Cats with scraps.

Last season, Panthers GM Dale Tallon signed Russian defenseman Bogdan Kiselevich from the KHL to a one-year contract.

Kiselevich only played 32 games with Florida, recording eight assists in a season that saw him fail to maintain a regular spot on the Panthers’ blue line.

Two years ago the Panthers signed a 23-year-old Finnish forward by the name of Henrik Haapala out of Tappara Tampere (Liiga) to a two-year deal.

He came in with some high expectations after posting 60 points in 51 games and helping his team win a league title. The deal, unfortunately, did not go as planned.

Haapala only played five games in South Florida, posting just one assist before opting to return to Finland.

The team also signed Swedish defenseman Linus Hultström to a two-year contract back in 2017 but he never played a single game in North America.

There’s no question that it’s disappointing to see players sign and make little to no impact, but it shouldn’t stop the Panthers from continually searching for the next late bloomer out of Europe.

Every now and then an NHL team dives into the European free agent market and hits the jackpot. Just take a look at Artemi Panarin.

Panarin went undrafted and after a handful of successful seasons in the KHL, he landed himself a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. The rest is history, as they say.

Panarin is an example of a player who made a seamless transition to the North American game and performed far better than expected.

Obviously, he’s an anomaly and no one should expect that type of game changer when importing a skater from another league. Having said that, it would be smart for Florida to reach out to some players currently overseas.

With Troy Brouwer, Jamie McGinn, and Riley Sheahan all needing new contracts, the Panthers have some uncertainty when it comes to the team’s forward depth. Probing the European market would be a smart tactic for the Panthers’ front office to explore.

One player that should definitely be on Florida’s radar is Finnish winger Ville Leskinen.

If you haven’t heard the name, the Panthers seem to love players from Finland and Leskinen finished the season tied for most points in Finland’s top league.

He managed to rack up 57 points in 58 games and was a leader for Oulun Karpat, serving as one of the team’s assistant captains.

He’s still just 25-years-old and was a plus-31 playing on the same line as Panthers prospect Aleksi Heponiemi.

Now that Heponiemi has signed with the team, Leskinen could come in and help the young forward transition to the North American game on a team chock-full of Finns.

Not only did Leskinen produce during the regular season, but he also put up 15 points in 17 playoff games and was a key part of his Karpat’s special teams.

It’s expected that a slew of GM’s will be calling his agent this offseason, requesting his services and Tallon should be one of them.

Another forward garnering a substantial amount of attention from teams league-wide is Swedish forward Joakim Nygard.

It’s worth pointing out that he is signed through 2021/22 with Farjestad BK of the SHL but there is an agreement in place with the Swedish Hockey Federation and the NHL that makes it possible for a player to get out of his SHL contract upon signing in the NHL.

According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Nygard has stated that he intends on signing an NHL contract this summer.

Friedman also reports that Calgary and Ottawa have expressed serious interest but, with the Panthers planning on loading up before next season, could be able to convince Nygard to take his talents to the sunshine state.

The Stockholm native could be a nice addition for Florida, adding depth and speed to the team’s offense.

Nygard recorded 21 goals and 14 assists in 52 regular-season games last year while adding another 10 points in 14 postseason appearances.

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While the 26-year-old’s stats don’t necessarily jump off the page, he is considered to be one of the fastest skaters in the SHL and plays a sound two-way game.

If the Panthers are able to attract Nygard, it would give head coach Joel Quenneville an extra option up front if the team faces injury issues in pursuit of a postseason berth.

If it’s size and grit the Panthers are after, Tallon and Co. should reach out to Russian forward Ivan Telegin.

Telegin’s KHL contract expires this offseason and, according to Igor Eronko of Sport-Express, he is looking to sign an NHL contract.

The St. Louis Blues drafted Telegin in the fourth round of the 2010 draft and the Blues still own his NHL rights, but he will become a UFA at the end of June.

Last season, Telegin played for CSKA Moscow – scoring 22 points in 49 games which isn’t overly impressive. However, his size (6’4”) and defensive abilities were enough to earn him a spot on this year’s World Hockey Championship roster with Russia.

Considering he would be a cheap option, the 27-year-old forward looks like he could be a possible replacement for injury-prone winger Jamie McGinn or aging veteran Troy Brouwer if the team opts to let one or both forwards walk in free agency.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to add muscle to the Panthers’ fourth line. Especially when that muscle can kill penalties.

If the Panthers choose to bolster their system with some relatively unknown depth forwards out of Europe, it would open the door to the unexpected.

Who knows, maybe one of the players mentioned above will break into the league and find themselves a consistent roster spot.

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When signing players out of Europe, the worst case scenario is they go back to their former league or bounce around the minors. The bottom line is that there’s something appealing about signing players that have something to prove in the greatest league on earth.