With NHL free agency set to begin on July 5th, teams around the NHL will soon be faced with the tough task of evaluating just how much their current stock of both restricted and unrestricted free agents are worth. Given their often uncertain futures, most impending free agents will be looking for the biggest cash grab they can find – as it may end up being their last big payday in the NHL. While some players are willing to accept the price tag that their current team places on them, other skaters often seek greener pastures – and I of course am referring to the green tint of cash.
Of all of the Panthers’ upcoming free agents this offseason, none are more tightly linked to current General Manager Dale Tallon than 26-year-old RW Jack Skille. While many fans remember Dale Tallon as the man whose drafting of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane led to the resurgence of the Blackhawks franchise, most forget that he first placed his hopes with another young skater – the aforementioned Jack Skille.
After assuming the role of General Manager in Chicago, Dale Tallon headed into the 2005 NHL Entry Draft looking to make his first big impression on the Blackhawks’ franchise. Holding the 7th overall pick, Tallon selected Skille ahead of current NHL’ers Anze Kopitar (11th overall), Marc Staal (12th overall), Tuukaa Rask (21st overall), and T.J. Oshie (24th overall) just to name a few. While hindsight may always be 20/20, at the time no one could fault Tallon for having confidence in Skille after how well he performed for the US National Under-18 Team – scoring 55 points (24G 31A) in 54 career games.
Sadly, in the years since being drafted, Skille was never able to live up to the lofty expectations that come with being a high draft selection. In 79 career games for the Blackhawks, Skille was only able to compile a meager 25 points (11G 14A) and never came close to sniffing the level of play that was expected of him. After 4 less-than-impressive stints at the NHL level, no one would have faulted Dale Tallon for accepting his mistake and move on from the underachieving skater…
That however, would not be the case.
After his time with the Chicago Blackhawks had ended, Dale Tallon was hired as General Manager of the Florida Panthers on May 17, 2010. Within his first year as the Panthers’ General Manager, Tallon did everything he could to overhaul the roster and start implementing the same plans that bred so much success in Chicago. To the surprise of many, the almost forgotten Skille would turn out to be a part of these plans. On February 9, 2011 Tallon raised eyebrows when a multi-player deal sent former 10th overall pick Michael Frolik to the Blackhawks in exchange Skille.
After roughly 3 seasons in Florida it seems as if once again Tallon’s faith in Skille may have been overestimated. In 99 games for the Panthers, Skille was only able to compile 24 totals points while battling injuries and seeing the majority of his playtime on the team’s 3rd or 4th line. Now as Skille approaches restricted free agency, Tallon must once again decide if he wants to continue this failing relationship.
At just 26-years-old it’s clear that while Skille’s career is far from over, it is most certainly in need of a face lift. Considering the financial constraints that the Panthers often find themselves in, at this point it seems that it would be mutually beneficial for both Skille and Tallon to part ways. After never finding success under the watchful eye of Tallon, Skille may finally be given a chance to grow outside the realm of the expectations that have accompanied him throughout his NHL career. On the Panthers’ side of the equation, Tallon will finally be able to make peace with his only big draft mistake and also be able to find a cheaper solution to fill the hole left on the team’s 4th line.
With summer almost in full swing and free agency just under a month away, it’s not crazy to think that both Tallon and Skille will soon be seeing other people.
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