Dale Tallon, the General Manager of the Florida Panthers, struck again over the weekend by completing a trade with the Vancouver Canucks that proved that the rebuilding process did not end with the large haul of free agents this past summer. On Saturday night, Tallon sent David Booth, Steven Reinprecht, and a third-round pick to the Canucks for Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm, two veteran wingers. As George Richards of The Miami Herald wrote, it was a surprising deal that was also a bit sad for the players. Harvey Fialkov’s piece in the Florida Sun-Sentinel also rang of sadness, especially from Stephen Weiss who had been Booth’s linemate for the past six seasons.
Although the team seemed upset about Booth’s departure, they did skate to a 4-2 home victory against the New York Islanders that evening and broke a goalless streak that had stretched across two games – losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals. The players seemed to get Tallon’s message that they needed to play better or else a job would be on the line.
Reading Richards’s and Fialkov’s articles, Tallon’s impatience with the team is evident, but I do not believe that this was his sole motivating factor. Although the Panthers take on more salary this year by absorbing Samuellsson’s and Sturm’s contracts, the two players can be free agents after this season. Booth still has four years and $17 million on the life of his contract. Tallon obviously did not think that he was worth the price considering that he had only scored 1 point – an assist – while accumulating a -6 +/- through 6 games. Part of the slump may be attributed to playing on a line without Stephen Weiss, but Booth had been showing signs of regression since scoring 31 goals in 2008-2009.
In my opinion, the most important factor in the move is that Tallon sees a brighter future without Booth. Booth was brought in and signed by the old regime, and Tallon wants “his guys” in the organization. This move was more about freeing up money than spurring the Panthers to victory over the Isles, so although Tallon’s quotes ring of impatience and a desire to invigorate the team, the deal was largely made for two reasons: (1) the Canucks are in a win now mode and (2) the Panthers are in a win later mode. It is very interesting to be a fan of a rebuilding team like the Panthers because each move must be looked at for its future impact more than its immediate impact. The Panthers are most likely not going to win the Stanley Cup this year, and Tallon decided that Booth was not going to help them win in the coming years. He cut his losses and will focus on different players, and in so doing, he proves that the Panthers are still focused on the future.