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Dale Tallon: Maturity (and a budget) Brought Panthers Patience on Day 1 ... Sexton, Birch Out

TallonhuetThe opening day of the NHL free agency period came and went without any news from the Florida Panthers.

General manager Dale Tallon said he would be patient and not get swept up in the moment and spend crazy money.

Tallon, as general manager of the Blackhawks, has been guilty of that in the past – Nikolai Khabibulin, Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet come to mind.

But so, too, have the Panthers as they overspent on moderate players.

“Nothing surprises me on July 1,'' Tallon said of some of the big contracts handed out around the league Thursday. “The only thing I regret is that I can't play [anymore]. It's always amazing on July 1, people always overpay. We have to be patient and prudent. We've been active on the phone, trying to make deals that make sense.''

The Panthers did add a front office piece as Mike Santos was hired from Nashville to be the team's assistant general manager.

Sextondraft Randy Sexton, who was said to be a candidate for the job, will not be retained after his contract expired on Wednesday.

Sexton was the Panthers assistant GM under Jacques Martin from 2007 until taking over for Martin last summer.

Sexton was fired as GM in May when Tallon was hired but stayed on with the Panthers and was part of the war room during last week's draft in Los Angeles. 

Here's hoping Randy finds something soon.

Wouldn't be surprised to see him land in Pittsburgh as he and Ray Shero are close. Sexton's free agency signings last summer weren't much to talk about (although he didn't have much to work with throughout the summer with the ownership in flux) but he made some good moves at the deadline and stockpiled some draft picks that Tallon and the Panthers hope to get solid return on.

Jack Birch, hired by Mike Keenan in 2004 to be director of hockey operations, was also let go. Birch worked closely with the Panthers AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

Santos worked for the Panthers for parts of two seasons from 2001-03 before leaving to become president and commissioner of the North American Hockey League. Santos, the Preds director of hockey operations the past four seasons, has extensive minor league experience and will oversee the Panthers prospects in Rochester.

Santos, 45, will also be responsible for most day-to-day activities, allowing Tallon to “do what I do best and go out there and procure some talent.''

“I'm very excited,'' said Santos, who adds that he's an avid Dolphins fan. “Foremost, it was the people here who attracted me in Dale Tallon and Bill Torrey. I like the way they plan to be here, it's similar to the way we did things in Nashville. Dale had a similar plan in Chicago. I believe in that plan and think it's going to be success.

“This hasn't been a place where stability has been a strong suit. I'm looking forward to getting [the Panthers] on the right track and keeping it on the right track.''

Here's more on Santos from the Panthers press release:

“Mike brings to our team more than 20 years of hockey experience after working in a variety of capacities in the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League and the North American Hockey League,” said Tallon.

Santos “He has done an incredible job in helping to assemble a competitive Nashville club that has qualified for the playoffs in three of the last four seasons. He is very knowledgeable in the CBA, contract negotiations, salary cap compliance, budget forecasting and minor league operations. We welcome Mike back to the Panthers and look forward to his continued contributions to the organization.”

Prior to working in Nashville, Santos served as the Florida Panthers Director of Hockey Operations/Corporate Counsel for the 2002-03 season, after joining the organization during the 2001-02 season as a hockey operations consultant.

He was named commissioner and president of the North American Hockey League in 2003 and led the Junior “A” league through three seasons of unprecedented growth. The Lowell, Massachusetts native has also spent time working in the NHL’s New York office, as well as for the New Haven Nighthawks (AHL) and the NY Islanders.

A graduate of Boston College, he received his Master’s Degree from the United States Sports Academy in 1989, earned his Juris Doctorate from St. John’s University School of Law in 1998, has been a member of the New York state bar since 1999 and serves on USA Hockey’s Congress, as well as its junior and legal councils.