There’s no doubt about it.
The Florida Panthers have a bright future.
On June 6th, the man that set the Florida franchise up to be a contender for years to come, Dale Tallon, was rewarded with a contract extension. While the terms for Tallon’s deal were not disclosed by the team, the club did state that it was a “multi-year extension”.
Speaking about his new contract, Tallon stated, “I’m excited. This is a great opportunity to keep the franchise on the right path. We had a good season, and I just want to build on this past season the next couple of years.”
Tallon began reshaping the downtrodden franchise in his image last offseason when he was able to trade Rostislav Olesz for Brian Campbell. When Campbell agreed to waive his no-trade clause to head to South Florida, it signaled a new start for the Florida Panthers.
For the first time since the Pavel Bure era, Florida once again became a franchise that players would seriously consider playing for as opposed to simply scoffing at the notion that the team in Sunrise was serious about building a contender.
The Panthers’ GM would continue to overhaul the franchise by trading for other former Chicago Blackhawks in Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky as well as signing a slew of players that included Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim, and Ed Jovanovski. Dale Tallon initially drew criticism for a number of these signings, as many analysts believed he had overpaid for many of the new Panthers.
However, the remodeled Cats responded by having their best season in over a decade. The team won its first Southeast Division championship and took the eventual Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils all the way to a Game 7 before falling in double overtime.
Although the Panthers just completed one of their best season’s in franchise history, the best is yet to come. Hockey’s Future ranked the Florida Panthers number one on their list of best farm systems prior to the 2011-2012 season. The Cats possess a plethora of young talent including Quinton Howden, Alex Petrovic and Jacob Markstrom However, the gem of the group is clearly Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau possesses a skill level that the Panthers have sorely been lacking and is the type of game changing player that can be the difference in advancing out of a playoff round.
And it’s been Tallon that has quietly built the foundation for something special to happen in South Florida.
After all his work in rebuilding the franchise, the Florida brass made the right decision to reward Tallon with a contract extension. The GM has the track record to prove that he can put together a Stanley Cup winner and that was something the Panthers simply couldn’t afford to let go.
Even with his proven record, some still question Tallon’s long-term vision as a GM. Although he did turn around a dreadful situation in Chicago, Tallon was blamed for overpaying players, which prevented the Blackhawks from re-signgin key contributors to their championship team. Many believe he has already done the same thing in Florida.
It’s hard to say whether that will turn out to be the case or not. What’s not hard to say is that the Panthers made the right decision to extend Tallon. Even if he did overpay players in Chicago, that team is a contender to win the Cup every year and it can thank Dale Tallon for making it so after he drafted players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
With Tallon leading the way in Florida, the Panthers promising future could be just over the horizon.
Charlie Crespo is a Florida Panthers Correspondent for TheHockeyWriters.com. His work has also been featured at SB Nation Tampa Bay, where he is the Assistant Editor, and at TheRumpus.net. In addition to his writing, Charlie is currently working on an MA in English Literature at Florida International University.