The Florida Panthers are in a unique situation.
In my first piece for Panther Parkway I outlined my take on the state of the Panthers. Consider this an extension to that piece. I went on about how the Panthers have a good mix of youth and veterans that will eventually lead to a highly skilled competitive team. I plead for patience due to the fact that youth takes time to develop and that the model franchises for the NHL give their prospects ample time to grow. I also pointed out that the new ownership group is serious about putting a contending team on the ice by spending to the cap and giving Hockey Operations all the tools they need in order to get the Panthers to the level of respectability that fans expect to see.
I know all of you read my last piece (over and over) so why am I recapping? It’s because I left out one key aspect that can define the Panthers as a franchise for years to come.
Dale Tallon is at a crossroads. Thus far in his tenure he has gone about a rebuild much like the one he orchestrated in Chicago. He drafted high, loaded up on elite prospects, insulated them with complementary players both young and old and has stabilized himself in goal for the next 4-5 years. What really put the Blackhawks over the top in 2009-2010 was the addition of Marian Hossa. Tallon knew that his team was ready to make the move so he went out and committed huge years and cash to Hossa who has been an instrumental part in the Blackhawks’ success these past few years.
The point I’m trying to make is that it’s time for Dale Tallon to make a choice. Does he continue the traditional rebuild or does he shake things up and slam down on the gas pedal? The thing is that the latter is right on par with Tallon’s “Traditional rebuild.”
We know that he has the gusto to make the big move, we’ve seen it before and now for the first time in his tenure as GM of the Panthers he has financial backing to actually make it happen.
To clarify, I’m not comparing the Panthers to the Blackhawks in terms of readiness to compete for a Stanley cup. I’m comparing the Panthers to the Blackhawks in terms of Tallon’s strategy and course of action.
To sum up: I think that Tallon is going to fast forward this rebuild. This off-season is key for the Panthers. Free Agency is always a good way to land a big fish but the pond is a bit bare this year and the key free agents might want to head to a team that can “win now” as opposed to a team that can “win in a few years from now” a la Moulson or Vanek.
So, readers, it’s time for the Panthers to make a trade.
It’s time for the Panthers to be buyers.
I’m not going to go ahead and make phony trade proposals, that’s always fun but really gets you nowhere because values are skewed and team glasses are worn. However, I’m definitely going to outline the kinds of players that Dale Tallon could potentially go after.
The Panthers need the kind of player that isn’t available via unrestricted free agency. They need the kind of player that doesn’t grow on trees, one that you have to pay for in order to reap the reward of his play. The Panthers can do it. They have a surplus of youth and that massive asset in the potential top 5 overall pick in 2014 entry draft. Nay sayers will scoff at the pick saying it is a weak draft but come draft day everyone including rival GMs go draft happy.
The choice to trade the pick is Tallon’s but as previously stated the Panthers are primed for a big move.
So about those targets…who should the Panthers go after?
As in any trade the goal should be to buy low and sell high. There are a few candidates that could be ripe for the picking for the Panthers to acquire. Proceed with caution as I 100% believe these are the players that should be brought in if the Panthers want to get serious. It will take a lot to get them but they will be worth it.
1. Evander Kane. Kane seems out of sorts with the Jets. He is the village scapegoat and is constantly being torn apart by fans and media alike. He is an elite power forward with a lethal wrist shot and any team should be lucky to be able to pay him to play hockey. He’s 22 and locked up until 2018 with a cap hit of $5,250,000.
2. Dustin Byfuglien. Another member of the Jets who is getting the shaft from his home team beat. For one reason or another the Jets don’t want nice things and that’s more than fine for their rivals. Byfuglien is one of the most versatile players in the NHL and can immediately turn the Panthers back-end into one of the tougher to compete against on any given night. 28 years old, locked up until 2015 at $5,200,000 on average.
3. Taylor Hall. You may be scoffing at this as we speak but Hall is exactly what the Panthers should be going after. You may say that “There’s no way the Oilers are going to trade him” but recent events have some tugging at their shirt collars. Signed until 2020 at 6 million on the cap.
4. Bobby Ryan. Ryan is on a floundering Senators team that is going nowhere fast. With a serious lack of team confidence it’s highly unlikely that Ryan remains a Senator after his deal expires in 2015. Of course, the Senators are going to do all they can to ensure that he remains in Ottawa but in the end it is the player’s call. If the Sens don’t feel like they can get him locked up, then the only logical course of action would be to trade him at the deadline or negotiate his rights at the draft. Tallon would have the task of convincing Ryan to stay in hot, state income tax-free Florida, to play on a team with rising stars and a bright future ahead of them. Hard sell.
You get the idea. While the magnitude of the deal or the player involved may not be as big as I’m suggesting, the time is right for Tallon to get aggressive as we have seen him be in the past.
We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s on Tallon to decide how fast he wants to get there.