General Manager Dale Tallon is facing one of his most challenging rosters in terms of cap flexibility, which could restrict a lot of potential transactions, or could enforce wanting to make trades.
In the last couple of seasons, Dale Tallon has made a lot of different moves to try and speed up the process for the Florida Panthers to make the playoffs. Here are some names that have been brought in during the last two years; Sergei Bobrovsky, Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, Anton Stralman, Frank Vatrano, Brett Connolly.
Those kind of names are players that have been around deep playoff teams, playing important roles and giving their team big performances when they mattered most. With them playing behind the young core of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, and Aaron Ekblad, this squad should be a clear playoff team.
As mentioned before, the Panthers have been prepared to pull the trigger on players to trade to improve the roster. Both Hoffman and Vatrano have lived up to their prices, and it won’t be the last time Tallon moves for a player to help the Panthers.
Those two moves were impressive because the Panthers only gave up draft picks. Tallon didn’t have to exile players in return for Hoffman or Vatrano, which makes the trades even more impressive.
Now, the Panthers have pushed all their chips to the table, and their previous cap flexibility has washed away. Florida has just $781,311 in cap space, which prevents the team from taking on a lot of players without giving up some pieces of their own.
The other big worry is that Hoffman and Dadonov both have expiring contracts that need to be extended come July. There’s no certainty that both will stay, with Henrik Borgstrom, Denis Malgin, Mackenzie Weegar, Sam Montembeault, and also dealing with expiring contracts.
This situation would prevent the Panthers from being able to be as aggressive as some other playoff teams can be. Florida do not want to be in a similar spot to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are at the cap ceiling and still need to bring back star winger Mitch Marner. While the Leafs have done well to build around that situation, Marner is a key player.
The issue with becoming more passive is that there is still a key issue between the Florida Panthers and cup contention. Florida has improved a lot since last season, more depth scoring, a new top-four defenseman, and one of the best goalies in the NHL. Despite that, how much further in the standings did the Panthers really push up?
Sure, they’re above a lot of other teams in the NHL in terms of talent and coaching, but there are still three very good teams above the Panthers. Even with massive improvement, Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto may still finish higher than Florida based on sheer talent alone.
There are going to be a lot of players who want to play for contenders that may request trades throughout the year, and Florida is going to need to pounce on these opportunities to ensure that they can rise above the teams above them.
While it has been proven in years past that underdog teams can play spoiler in the postseason, I don’t think Florida can be that same team. All the wild card teams that won this season had playoff experience under their belts, Florida has very few of that to go around amongst their core.
Florida, and specifically Dale Tallon, can’t use prior seasons to judge talent. If a player is underperforming this season and needs to be traded in order to secure someone better, do it. In simpler terms, don’t let a Denis Malgin, who still has potential to be better, get in the way of trading for a Zach Parise, or somebody else on a sub-par team that can help the Panthers win games.
The situations of how the Panthers decide to manage their roster this season will be important for years to come. At the same time, the time to win is now, this is one of the best rosters the Florida Panthers franchise has had ever, so improving if necessary should be a must.