Florida Panthers: If Failure Ensues, 2020 Could be Dale Tallon’s Last Season

Newly signed Florida Panthers Anton Stralman and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky attend a press conference with Panthers president Dale Tallon and coach Joel Quenneville at the BB&T Center Tuesday, July, 2, 2019 in Sunrise, Fla. (Charles Trainor/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
Newly signed Florida Panthers Anton Stralman and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky attend a press conference with Panthers president Dale Tallon and coach Joel Quenneville at the BB&T Center Tuesday, July, 2, 2019 in Sunrise, Fla. (Charles Trainor/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images) /

After a decade of washed seasons and an expensive haul in the offseason, Dale Tallon could be on the hot seat if the Florida Panthers don’t match their expectations in 2019-20.

Dale Tallon, who has been the general manager of the Florida Panthers for eight of the last nine seasons after a brief stint of being promoted to director of hockey operations, has had the biggest way in shaping how the Florida Panthers teams would line up this decade.

During this time, the Panthers have won their division just two times (2011-12 and 2015-16), eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders, respectively.

The Panthers have also had four separate top-five selections in NHL Drafts, in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014. Tallon has been able to select franchise centerpieces in Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Aaron Ekblad, who have and will continue to be huge parts of the Panthers’ core.

Tallon’s time has seen its share of genius moves and poor choices, and through a team that has had a lot of identities, it had been harder to knock Tallon’s lack of success through his first four years as GM.

The Panthers’ playoff team in 2011-12 was, to say lightly, not built for long term success. Other than Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, and Jacob Markstrom, most of the team was in either its late twenties or early thirties. When the Panthers failed to build off of their 2011-12 playoff berth, the decision to rebuild was the correct one.

After a three-year absence, Florida returned to the playoffs with their best-ever season, getting 103 points in the regular season and winning the Atlantic Division for the first time. After losing in round one, Tallon was replaced as GM via promotion, and Tom Rowe made changes to the roster.

Rowe’s brief stint included the big change of firing Gerard Gallant, who had differing viewpoints on the roster than Rowe’s current regime, which focused much more on primitive hockey analytics than Tallon’s.

Rowe was fired as head coach and GM, and Tallon returned, bringing in Bob Boughner as the new bench boss. After failing to make the playoffs in two consecutive seasons, Boughner was fired at the end of this past season, in which the Panthers missed the playoffs by 12 points.

So, throughout his time as GM, Tallon has mostly stayed pretty safe with transactions, trading minimal assets for good players like Mike Hoffman, Reilly Smith, Jaromir Jagr, and Frank Vatrano.

Tallon has also drafted a lot of the Panthers’ current supporting core, such as Vincent Trocheck, Mike Matheson, Henrik Borgstrom, MacKenzie Weegar, and Sam Montembeault.

Tallon has also had his flaws, flaws that arguably could’ve set the Panthers back. Tallon usually has focused on keeping the Panthers in good cap flexibility, which has led to the Panthers missing on a lot of top free agents and trade targets that could’ve improved the team throughout his leisure.

Tallon has also had his fair few misses, including drafting Erik Gudbranson, Lawson Crouse, and Quinton Howden in the first round, giving bad contracts to Dave Bolland and Mike Matheson, and protecting players that he would wind up trading (Nick Bjugstad) in favor of Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith in the Vegas Expansion Draft.

With the fans unsatisfied with his work in the past two seasons, with arguably his best roster on paper wasted by poor coaching and lack of trades to help the team; with that said, Tallon went forward with his biggest – and most expensive – offseason to date as Florida’s GM.

Now, the offseason Tallon had was very rare for Florida. Other than maybe the 2016 offseason, when Tom Rowe was in charge, and Florida signed Keith Yandle, Jason Demers, Jonathan Marchessault, Colton Sceviour, and James Reimer to try and take the next step as true contenders.

This reasoning, in my opinion, could be for one of two reasons. One reason, which is more likely, is that this is the most responsibility Tallon has had with cap space for a competitive team.

When Tallon did have this amount of cap space, he never really needed to look for the “big fish” as the Panthers were mostly looking to rebuild.

The other reason could be Tallon fearing for his job security. At the end of the season, it may be him who has to face the music if the results are not what owner Vinny Viola wants.

This offseason, which is very focused towards winning now, not having cap flexibility two-three years down the road, could be Tallon looking to make sure that his the 10th season with this franchise isn’t his last.

After two of Florida’s goaltenders left, Roberto Luongo through retirement and the aforementioned Reimer in a trade for Scott Darling (who Florida bought out), the Panthers had roughly $26 million to spend in free agency, which gave them more than enough money to improve the team.

Tallon spent roughly $21 million on four players in free agency, the Panthers’ biggest net spend in a single offseason with Tallon in charge as GM.

While the deals for former Bruins forward Noel Acciari and former Capitals forward Brett Connolly were reasonable deals, the two other contracts showed a big change in Tallon’s policy from reserved to big spending.

The first sign that showed a sense of desperation was the Anton Stralman deal. Stralman, who is a veteran leader signed on from Tampa Bay, has plenty of playoff experience and has had nothing but good things spoken about his defensive ability and locker-room presence.

The contract, however, isn’t exactly a typical Dale Tallon contract. Stralman, at 32 years of age (to be 33-years-old at the beginning of the season), was paid $5.5 million annually to sign for Florida.

Now, in Tallon’s defense, there are two reasons the contract was as high of a term than it was. There weren’t a lot of quality defensemen on the market this summer, with Jake Gardiner being the consensus “best” option on the market.

The cap is also going up, and other veterans like Wayne Simmonds and Semyon Varlamov were given $5 million as well.

The problem is that Simmonds and Varlamov are not only younger than Stralman, but their contracts were only one-year deals.

More from The Rat Trick

Stralman will be paid $5.5 million until 2022, a much more lengthy contract than a lot of people would’ve advised for a player who should be declining from his Tampa form in the next few seasons. For those who struggle with math, Stralman will be paid until he’s 36-years-old.

Not to mention, other defensemen on the market, such as Tyler Myers and Jordie Benn, younger alternatives to Stralman, also got less money than the Swede.

The deal could pan out next year, but after next season, there’s no telling what to really expect from the new number six.

The other contract given was to All-Star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. This deal had been on the cards for the last couple of months, as the Panthers have needed a goalie like this to take the next step as a team.

For an All-Star goalie, a hefty price needed to be paid. A seven-year contract worth $10 million per year would do the trick for the Russian, signing on from Columbus to replace Roberto Luongo in goal.

Yes, Bobrovsky is very talented and should be able to start until Sam Montembeault or Spencer Knight are ready to take the reigns. The problem is getting out of Bobrovsky’s contract when either of the two are ready.

Bobrovsky is already 30-years-old, and like Stralman, could decline in form as well once he hits 34 years of age. The difference is that Bobrovsky would be making almost double Stralman’s pay and for more than double the amount of time.

Then again, Bobrovsky could be the key to a deep playoff run, as he was for the Blue Jackets this past season, so we could forget the term if he leads us that far.

Next. Florida Need to Retire Roberto Luongo’s Jersey. dark

In closing, if this team fails, Tallon, or whoever replaces him, will have a job cut out for them when it comes to keeping this team around.