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36 posts from June 2011

June 30, 2011

Free Agency Opens Friday: Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers to be Very Busy

Tallon Thanks to a pair of trades with Chicago, the Panthers have already added two new faces to their pared down roster.

Starting at noon Friday, general manager Dale Tallon will add a few more. The Panthers are expected to be a busy bunch when the free agency market opens at the strike of 12.

No other team in the league has as much money under the $64.3 million salary cap as Florida does, a financial flexibility coming from Tallon's salary dump during last season.

At the trade deadline, Tallon not only moved players like Bryan McCabe and Radek Dvorak who were in the final years of their contracts, but he also traded players like Bryan Allen and Dennis Wideman who had term remaining.

Florida lost 16 of its final 20 games after the trade deadline, but those moves were made with Friday in mind. The Panthers swoon also helped them gain the third overall pick at last weekend's draft. Tallon acquired defenseman Brian Campbell and forward Tomas Kopecky since.

“It took a lot of pain last year to get ourselves in this position,'' Tallon said.

As seems to be the Panthers luck, this free agent class isn't particularly strong. Center Brad Richards is the biggest name of the bunch, but with the big money he's going to command, the Panthers aren't expected to land a forward who has 52 goals in the past two seasons with Dallas. Florida may not even make an offer.

“I don't think there's a marquee player out there to tell you the truth,'' Tallon said. “The reality is, there's a lot of good, solid players out there. But there isn't a star or superstar name.''

Well, that's not counting Steven Stamkos, a restricted free agent who may be amenable to signing an offer sheet. The Lightning hold his rights, however, and have seven days to match whatever offer its young star – who has 119 goals in three seasons -- gets from another team.

The Panthers have the money to spend on Stamkos although the price will be high; if Tampa Bay doesn't match an offer sheet Stamkos signs, four future first round picks goes to the Lightning as compensation.

Stamkos Stamkos, who tied Sidney Crosby for the NHL's goal lead on the final game of the 2009-10 season with an empty net goal against the Panthers in Sunrise, is definitely worth the risk. If Florida chooses to pursue the 21-year-old who was the first overall pick in 2008, it won't be alone.

“We'll go after the best players available,'' Tallon said. “We have to keep an eye on the future, and we're not going to block the development of our young kids. We'll look at everything, listen to everyone at noon on the first and do what's best for our future. We just have to be careful what we do.''

So what do the Panthers need? If Tomas Vokoun isn't signed by late Thursday night, Florida will be in need of a goalie to play alongside Scott Clemmensen. Tallon says he is looking for one or two top-end defensemen (former Panthers first round pick Ed Jovanovski is available) as well as a handful of forwards.

Tallon did say that youngsters like defensemen Erik Gudbranson and forwards Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida's pick last Friday) and Quinton Howden will have a chance to make the 2011-12 opening night roster. Florida will be looking at a forward group that includes Erik Cole, Michael Ryder, Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergenheim, Ville Leino and Tomas Fleischmann.

“It's good enough. We're going to get better,'' Tallon said. “We're going to get the best parts we can. I can't manufacture guys. It is what it is and we have to deal with it and do the best we can. .-.-. It's going to take all day and it's not a one day deal. It's going to take time. We're going to make the effort. It's a big weekend for us to get the players we want.''

June 29, 2011

Florida Panthers: Back to San Antonio


The Florida Panthers announced today that the club has entered into a primary American Hockey League affiliation agreement with the San Antonio Rampage. The announcement was made jointly by Florida Panthers Executive Vice President & General Manager Dale Tallon and Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E) President Rick Pych.

“We are extremely pleased to announce that our prospects will be playing and developing in San Antonio next year,” said Tallon. “Led by Chairman/CEO Peter M. Holt and President Rick Pych, Spurs Sports & Entertainment is a first class organization that will provide our prospects with an exceptional environment for growth and development. The Rampage roster will be compromised of our prospects, as well as experienced AHL players that will compete hard and play an exciting style of hockey for the fans of San Antonio.”

 “With the upcoming 2011-2012 season marking the Rampage’s 10-year anniversary, we are proud to announce that we will once again partner with the Florida Panthers organization,” said Pych.  “A lot has changed since our inaugural season with the Panthers back in 2002-2003. Dale Tallon enters his second season as general manager of the Panthers and is in the midst of developing and retaining the same type of great young hockey players at the AHL level for the Florida program that he did when he was GM with the Chicago Blackhawks as architect of the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion team.” 

Peeweealamo San Antonio previously served as the Panthers’ primary AHL affiliate for three seasons (2002-05). Florida will provide San Antonio with players, coaches and hockey operations staff. Panthers Assistant GM Michael Santos will direct hockey operations for the Rampage.

Chuck Weber, 38, will serve as the Head Coach of the Rampage. The Lockport, NY native, served as the bench boss of the Rochester Americans during the 2010-11 season. Prior to coaching in Rochester, Weber served as the Vice President of Hockey Operations & Head Coach of the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL) for four seasons. He led his club to the ECHL conference finals in three of his four years at the helm, capturing the ECHL Kelly Cup title in 2008 and 2010.

 “With Dale in Florida, together with Mike Santos as general manager of the Rampage and who has a long history of providing playoff caliber teams as an AHL GM, we are really excited about the prospects for the upcoming season since we know Dale and Mike share the same dedication and competitive determination that falls in line with all Spurs Sports & Entertainment franchises,” said Pych.

Peeweetexas The Rampage is one of four professional sports franchises owned and operated by Spurs Sports & Entertainment – the San Antonio Spurs (NBA) the Silver Stars (WNBA) and the Austin Toros (NBA D-League) – and plays its home games at the SS&E operated AT&T Center. The 2011-12 season marks the Rampage’s 10th anniversary season in the AHL. In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams with more than 87 percent of today's NHL players being AHL graduates.

Dale Tallon on Tomas Kopecky: "He's an Important Part" ... Tallon Says Team, Vokoun Talking. "We're Hopeful.''

Kopecky2 The Panthers deal with Tomas Kopecky is finally official, with the team comfirming the earlier report from Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos saying it's a four-year deal worth $3 million per season.

"I like champions,'' GM Dale Tallon said. "He's from Detroit, had success in Chicago. I like his grit, his personality, his professionalism.''

Tallon confirmed that the team and Kopecky had been talking for a few days as he says Kopecky came up when the Panthers were talking to Chicago about Brian Campbell.

"When we were talking to Chicago about Campbell, we asked if there was anything else,'' Tallon said. "We felt we could sign him because of their cap issues. This was an opportunity to get something done before [July 1st). It was important to us. We wanted some stability going into the first instead of hoping and waiting. It's easier to go forward with him under contract.''

Some are saying the Panthers really overpaid on this deal, but he was going to get anywhere between $2 and $2.5 million per season in my estimation. So it's really not that much more. Especially for a team that has to spend the cash.

Tallon admitted he probably spent too much on Kopecky. And will probably have to continue overpaying as the free agency market opens Friday.

"On Friday, you're going to overpay,'' Tallon said. "July belongs to the players, August belongs to managemt. We want the right pieces in place and he's an important part. We had the room, got a deal done. That's what's important.

"He wanted to come here, that's important. He wants to be a leader. He won in Detroit, won in Chicago. He doesn't want to lose here. He wants to win here.

"His scoring comes because of his work ethic. He's great at tipping shots from the point, he'll pay the price. That appeals to me. He kills penalties. I think he's getting better and better. His numbers go up every year.''

Tallon on Tomas Vokoun: "We're in negotiations with him as we speak, very hopeful. All I can tell you.''

Tallon on what's going on with the Panthers: "I know what needs to be done and we're on the right track. We're dedicated to winning games. Those guys [Campbell and Kopecky] are champions and want to be Panthers. Thats what I want: People who are passionate about being Panthers.''

On Friday: "It's going to take all day and it's not a one day deal. It's going to take time. We're going to make the effort. It's a big weekend for us to get the players we want.''

June 28, 2011

UPDATED: Hockey Hall of Fame Calls Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour ... Pavel Bure Forced to Wait

Hhof The Hockey Hall of Fame announced that four players would join its exclusive group today and two of them have ties to the Florida Panthers.

Center Joe Nieuwendyk and goalie Ed Belfour join Doug Gilmour and Mark Howe as the Hall's Class of 2011.

While Nieuwendyk and Belfour made their careers long before they came to South Florida, both ended their NHL careers here and will be remembered for their short time here.

Both Nieuwendyk and Belfour played their final NHL games with the Panthers during the 2006-07 season. Nieuwendyk spent 18 seasons in the league and had won the Stanley Cup three times before signing with the Panthers minutes after the lockout moratorium was lifted in 2005. Nieuwendyk, who came to the Panthers with pal Gary Roberts, played in 65 games during the 2005-06 season and scored 26 goals with 30 assists.

Nieuwendyk struggled with back pain in the final years of his career and that forced him to retire on Dec. 6, 2006 after playing just 15 games.

Joenieuwcup Nieuwendyk played at Cornell University before joining the Flames where he was the league's rookie of the year in 1988. Nieuwendyk won the Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989 as well as with Dallas in 1999 and New Jersey in 2003. Nieuwendyk spent the 2007-08 season serving as Florida’s special assistant to general manager Jacques Martin.

Nieuwendyk, 44, was selected in his second year of eligibility.

“What a thrill to get that call even though we're so busy here,'' said Nieuwendyk, now general manager of the Dallas Stars. He says he was working with his staff gearing up for the upcoming free agency period when he got the call.

Belfour spent just one season with the Panthers, signing with the team on July 26, 2006 – just weeks after Florida traded Roberto Luongo to Vancouver. Belfour ended up taking the starting job from Alex Auld that season, going 27-17-10 with a shutout for the Panthers that season.

Belfour also set the Panthers all-time record for consecutive games played, appearing in 27 games from Jan. 20-Mar. 27. Had Florida not traded for Tomas Vokoun, he was expected to be invited back for the 2007-08 season. Instead, Belfour went to play in Europe.

Belfourcup Belfour played in 963 games, going 484-320-14 with 111 ties through 17 seasons with Chicago, Dallas, Toronto and Florida.

Belfour was also in goal against the Panthers for that franchise's first ever game. Belfour and the Blackhawks settled for a 4-4 tie against the Panthers at Chicago Stadium on Oct. 6, 1993. Belfour was selected for the Hall in his first year of eligibility.

“It really is,'' Belfour said when asked about the honor of being a first-ballot inductee. “I didn't expect it in any way. I feel like it was a real surprise, a real honor. It's even more of an honor to be picked right away. I was just flabbergasted when I heard about it.''

Belfour had some memorable moments in South Florida, most of which weren't all that positive.

His last act as a member of the Panthers was being arrested on South Beach after the Panthers season-ending party. This came after the alleged fight in the hotel lobby on Long Island in which Auld cut his head when he "slipped in some water.''

That said, Belfour did a lot of good with his charities and brought a number of sick children to games through his work with Make-A-Wish.

And, of course, there was this. This video comes from Belfour's second-to-last game as a member of the Panthers on April 1, 2007. Belfour's final NHL game was a 7-3 win for the Panthers over Tampa Bay on April 6, 2007.


-- Pavel Bure, a member of the Panthers from 1999-2002 and a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner with the Cats, didn't make the cut this year.

Here's a tweet from his brother Valeri Bure, also a former member of the Panthers. (You can follow him @ValBure): Congrats to the guys that got into Hockey Hall of Fame today. But I think it's a big joke that my brother did not make it again :-(

June 27, 2011

Mike Santos: Florida Panthers have spoken to Mike Santorelli

Santtorelli Panthers assistant general manager Mike Santos just told me that he had a real conversation with the agent for Mike Santorelli today for the first time in months.

Santorelli was one of seven restricted free agents to be given a qualifying offer by the Panthers today.

Again, Santos doesn't seem concerned about getting a deal done with Santorelli.

"It could be tomorrow, it could be three weeks,'' Santos said. "It just hasn't been a big priority. He's a restricted free agent. Other things have been going on. We'll get something done.''

Santos, you might recall, was the former assistant GM in Nashville and swung the deal for Santorelli last summer. Turned out pretty well for both as Santorelli had a career year with the Panthers, scoring 22 goals as he played in all 82 games for the Panthers.

In two seasons with the Preds, Santorelli played in a total of 32 games with two goals and an assist.

Florida Panthers Make Qualifying Offers to Seven ... Bernier, Bergfors Not Among Them ... Michal Repik Stays, Not RFA Until Next Summer

Bergfors The Panthers made qualifying offers to seven players on Monday.

Those players not offered tenders: Niclas Bergfors and Steve Bernier.

Those who got offers: D Michael Caruso, G Marc Cheverie, LW Mike Duco, C Shawn Matthias, LW Kenndal McArdle, G Tyler Plante and C Mike Santorelli.

-- Everywhere I have read says that Michal Repik is RFA. He is not.

Mike Santos says he is still on his first entry level contract. According to Santos, Repik will be RFA next summer as his contract slid a year.

Repik Bascially, his three-year entry level contract became a four-year contract because of his age and his lack of NHL games in the first season of the contract.

Because Repik only played in five NHL games in 2008-09 (as an 18/19 year old), he doesn't get credit for that first season. Yes, he played in 75 AHL games for the Amerks, but that doesn't count. He would have had to played 10 NHL games for that season to count.

Repik scored seven goals in 55 games with the Panthers over the past three seasons. He had 52 goals in three seasons with the Amerks.



Hockey Hall to Call Former Panthers? Bure, Nieuwendyk and Belfour Hope to Hear Name

Pavel2 The Hockey Hall of Fame is going to announce it's newest class on Tuesday and a number of former Panthers could be included.

Pavel Bure spent a big chunk of his career in Sunrise, the Russian Rocket coming to the Panthers in 1999 before leaving in a much disputed (although he played just 51 games after leaving the Panthers because of knee injuries) trade in 2002.

Joeniuw Also being considered are a pair of players who won the Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999 but played their final NHL games with the Panthers: Joe Nieuwendyk and Eddie Belfour.

We all thought Nieuwendyk would make it last year but he was passed over. I think he makes it this time. Eddie the Eagle, who spent one very interesting season with the Panthers in 2006-07, Belfour may have to wait another year.

But we'll see.

We wish them all the best.

--Mike Vernon, the last Panthers starting goalie to appear in the playoffs, is also eligible.

-- Fun stuff with Bure: In 1998-99, Bure held out with a year left on his contract after telling the Canucks he would never play with them again.

To get Bure, the Panthers traded Ed Jovanovski, Dave Gagner, Mike Brown, Kevin Weekes and the first round pick in 2000. The Panthers also got back Bret Hedican, Brad Ference and Vancouver's third-round pick in 2000.

In 2002, the Panthers got Igor Ulanov, Filip Novak and first and second round picks from the Rangers (as well as a fourth-rounder in 2003) for Bure.

Who did the Panthers take with those top picks?

Petr Taticek and Rob Globke.

Good stuff.

Welcome to Wrigleyville, FLA: Panthers acquire rights to Blackhawks LW Tomas Kopecky

Kopeckycup Dale Tallon continues to try and build the Panthers into an eastern version of the Chicago Blackhawks as he acquired the negotiating rights with Chicago forward Tomas Kopecky on Monday.

Florida gave up almost nothing for this, sending a conditional seventh round pick in 2012 to the Blackhawks.

Tallon, speaking on NHL Network on Monday, seemed confident based on trading for Brian Campbell that Kopecky would sign with the Chicago Panthers.

"We got Soupy to come down here,'' Tallon said.

Kopecky is a very versatile forward and is coming off a good season in which he scored a career-high 15 goals. Kopecky has had his best two seasons in Chicago, scoring a total of 25 goals in the past two seasons. He was injured in his next-to-last season with Detroit as he won the Stanley Cup with the Wings although he didn't play a postseason game.

In the 2009-10 playoffs with the Hawks, Kopecky had four goals with two assists in 17 games as he factored into the Blackhawks' title run.

Kopecky made $1.2 million in each of the past two seasons with the Hawks. He's likely wanting something in the $2.2-5 range with the Panthers.

If he doesn't sign by Thursday night, the Panthers lose him to the UFA market.

Back in Time: Florida Panthers Returning to San Antonio?

Backfuture With the Phoenix Coyotes leaving San Antonio for the Portland Pirates, there aren't many places for the Florida Panthers to have an AHL affiliation next season.

As hard is this is to believe, the Panthers appear to be headed back to San Antonio.

If you thought the Rochester-Panthers marrage was rocky, it was nothing compared to the Panthers pairing with the Rampage.

The Panthers co-owned the AHL franchise with the San Antonio Spurs and things went well for a time.

But they soon soured. The team lost a lot of money and the Panthers soon wanted nothing to do with it. The Panthers final season there was during the lockout, with rising stars Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss and Jay Bouwmeester playing there in 2004-05.

The Panthers had high hopes for that team, but Horton got hurt and the team was so Rampage bad the Panthers loaned Weiss and Bouwmeester to the Chicago Wolves (who signed with Vancouver on Monday) so they could get some playoff experience.

The two parted ways after that with the Panthers dediding it was better to split an affiliation in Rochester with Buffalo than stay in San Antonio. Alan Cohen ended up selling his share of the team back to the Spurs.

It was ugly -- and it set the Panthers development back a long way.

Now, there were some good times in San Antonio for sure. John Torchetti and Guy Charron coached the team at different points and were popular there. Of course, both of those guys are really cool and were good with the fans.

But the on-ice product was rarely good -- the team only made the playoffs once in the three years the Panthers were there.

For those in San Antonio, things are a little different these days. Mike Santos will be in charge of the team -- he helped run the Rampage during the rare times things were good between San Antonio and the Panthers -- and should supply some good players. The Panthers organization is much deeper than it was back then.

I'm not saying the Rampage will make the playoffs -- mainly because Rochester didn't last year -- but things should be better than they were before.

Chuck Weber, signed on to coach the Amerks last year, is employed by the Panthers and is expected to return and head up the Rampage.



June 25, 2011

Florida Panthers Draft Notebook: Rocco Grimaldi OK with Second Round ... Gord Murphy, Robb Tallas Staying ... Nicklas Bergfors Gone


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Rocco Grimaldi came to the Xcel Energy Center on Friday hoping to hear his name called as the first round of the NHL draft was held.

When it wasn't, he said he was OK with things. “It wasn't too bad,'' Grimaldi said. “The tough part was going through it, it was just so overwhelming. When it was over and I wasn't picked, I just started looking forward to [Saturday].''

Grimaldi didn't have to wait long on Saturday as the Panthers claimed him with the third pick of the second round, calling his name minutes into the second day of the draft. Grimaldi, who will play at the University of North Dakota next season, looks like he may have been a steal by the Panthers. Grimaldi may not be tall – he's listed as 5-foot-6 and that appears to be generous – but he definitely has skill.

“In every tournament we saw him play in, he was just great. He was dominant,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. “He was as good as anyone in those tournament. You don't always look at size. You can find a lot of great players in the NHL at 5-6 or 5-7. This guy was so dynamic against guys ranked higher than he was. He didn't look out of place.''

Grimaldi was one of 10 amateur players taken by the Panthers this weekend. Florida took center Jonathan Huberdeau with the third overall pick on Friday. Grimaldi, who scored 34 goals with 28 assists in 50 games for the U.S. National Under-18 team.

“I knew it was a new day,'' Grimaldi said. “I knew wherever I was drafted was where the Lord was going to put me. I'm happy to be with the Panthers. I'm ready to play for them wherever it is and make an impact.''

The Panthers tried to select a variety of players. Florida added skill players like Grimaldi, Vincent Trocheck and Logan Shaw while also grabbing defensive-minded players such as Rasmus Bengtsson, Jonathan Racine and Yaroslav Kosov.

“It was a good blend,'' amateur scouting director Scott Luce said. “We knew it was a deep draft and we had to manage it accordingly. .-.-. We think our draft plan was executed well.''

Florida will get a good look at these players next month when the team holds a development camp at its training facility in Coral Springs.


New coach Kevin Dineen confirmed Saturday that assistant coach Gord Murphy would return in 2011-12 as would goalie coach Robb Tallas. Dineen says he will hire at least one more assistant coach as the Panthers are considering going with three assistant coaches next season. Dineen would like to have everything set by the development camp in Coral Springs next month.

“Gord is a real quality individual,'' Dineen said. “I don't need to put my fingerprints on everything. A little continuity will be good. I'm looking forward to working with Gord.''

-- Colin Suellentrop, a native of Plantation who grew up playing in Coral Springs, is believed to be the first true product of the Broward County system to be selected in the draft. Suellentrop attended St. Gregory School in Plantation through his eighth grade year before moving to Detroit to play junior hockey.

Suellentrop, who started playing for the Florida Junior Panthers at the age of 9, was taken by the Flyers in the fourth round (116th overall).

Suellentrop is currently playing for the Oshawa Generals – partly owned by Pete DeBoer -- of the Ontario Hockey League. Last year, the Rangers took Boca's Andrew Yogan with the 100th overall pick.

-- The Panthers offered qualifying offers to a number of their restricted free agents including Kenndal McArdle, Mike Santorelli and Shawn Matthias. Florida surprisingly cut ties with winger Nicklas Bergfors, acquired at the deadline from Atlanta in the Radek Dvorak deal. Byron Bitz and Steve Bernier won't be back as expected.

“[Bergfors] just doesn't seem to be the right fit for us with the direction we're taking,'' assistant general manager Mike Santos said. “The money he's going to command just didn't make sense to us.''

-- The Panthers should have a finalized plan for an American League Hockey affiliate early this week, Santos said. It's been long known that Florida wouldn't return to Rochester, N.Y. On Friday, the Buffalo Sabres bought the Rochester Americans and will be returning there in 2011-12.

Brian Campbell Ready to Get Things Started with Florida Panthers ... Now with More Dale Tallon and Mike Santos!

Campbell2 ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Brian Campbell didn't decide to come to Florida on a whim.

After being asked by the Blackhawks to waive his no-trade agreement, Campbell took a few days to mull things over. It has been reported that he declined to go to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It's not easy going from a Stanley Cup contender to a team undergoing yet another rebuild.

Yet late Friday night, Campbell gave the Blackhawks the green light to ship him to the Panthers. On Saturday morning, Campbell seemed happy to start fresh with a Florida team all but starting from the ground up.

The Panthers gave up Rostislav Olesz in return for Campbell in a trade that wasn't made official until after midnight Saturday morning.

“I've had a lot of things to think about the past couple of days. I'm happy about it,'' Campbell said. “It wasn't easy to leave Chicago, I enjoyed my time there and my fiancée is from there. But this is an opportunity. Obviously I've talked to Dale Tallon, I know what they're doing there. This is going to be better for my career, going to Florida, playing a bigger role than I was in Chicago. I'm looking for a lot of opportunity.''

Dale Tallon, the Panthers general manager, brought Campbell to Chicago in the summer of 2008. At the time, the Blackhawks were on their way up. They were close, yet not quite there. Chicago finished two spots out of the playoffs in 2007-08. After adding Campbell and others, the Blackhawks quickly turned the corner and advanced to the Western Conference finals.

In 2010, Campbell and the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions.

The Panthers hope the addition of Campbell is a kick start to their rebuild. When Florida general manager Dale Tallon was in Chicago, signing Campbell to that eight-year contract worth $57 million signified the Blackhawks' return to respectability, a sign Chicago was ready to compete for the big prize.

“Like in Chicago, he gives us credibility,'' Tallon said. “He had eight teams he could have gone to and we weren't one of those teams. But he did choose us, he made a commitment to come to Florida. That says a lot and means a lot to us to have a player of his stature add us to the list.''

Although many have questioned the large contract Campbell had signed, few question what Campbell brings to the game. A strong skater, Campbell “plays with passion like few I've seen,'' Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “He has found a way to be a extraordinary talent. His skating really separates him from the pack. I told him I expect him to be a big piece of the puzzle. He'll be a big part of the puzzle.''

Campbell will make $7.14 million in each of the next five years. That makes him one of the highest paid professional athletes in South Florida, only behind LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Hanley Ramirez, Jake Long and Josh Johnson. Tallon, the guy who gave Campbell all that cash, says he's happy to have him back in the fold.

“He wants to play for the Panthers and that means a heck of a lot to me and our organization,'' Tallon said. “I brought Soupy into Chicago and he's willing to come down and turn this franchise around. That speaks volumes.''

With Tallon at the helm of the Panthers ship, Campbell says more magic is in store. Campbell added that talking with Dineen helped him realize that Florida was a good spot for him.

“[Tallon] did a lot of good things in Chicago,'' Campbell said. “I've already talked to a lot of ex-teammates who have said 'get me there. I want to be there too.' Dale will make this a very attractive place to play. We'll get this organization going in the right direction, get the fans back.''

The signing of Campbell also solidifies Florida's defensive unit as the Panthers now have five defensemen with one-way deals under contract. Campbell is expected to run Florida's top power play unit, one that scored the fewest goals in a full season in franchise history last year.

“We had the 29th ranked power play in the league last year and just picked up a premier power play quarterback,'' assistant general manager Mike Santos said.

“There's no doubt we lacked offense from the back line and had nothing coming up immediately. He's also a Stanley Cup champion. The more of those you can put in your room, the better.''

Florida Panthers Official Release on Brian 'Gregory' Campbell Trade

Florida Panthers Acquire D Brian Campbell From Chicago Blackhawks
in exchange for LW Rostislav Olesz
Stanley Cup Champion & Two-time NHL All-Star Joins Cats

ST. PAUL, MINN – Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has acquired D Brian Campbell from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for LW Rostislav Olesz.

“Brian is a top-four, mobile, puck-moving defenseman who we are very pleased to have acquired,” said Tallon. “He is a hard working and responsible player, who will be counted on to play an important role on our power play. We look forward to his immediate contribution to our club.”

Campbell, 32, has played in 626 National Hockey League games for Buffalo (2001-08), San Jose (2007-08) and Chicago (2008-11) scoring 54 goals with 258 assists, 167 PIM and a plus-53 rating. The 6-foot, 190-pound defenseman won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2009-10 season, assisting on the game-winning goal in game six of the 2010 Stanley Cup finals. Campbell has played in 90 postseason games registering 38 points (8-30-38), appearing in the playoffs in six of his last seven seasons.
The Strathroy, Ontario native recorded a career best 52 points (7-45-52) with Chicago during the 2008-09 campaign. The two-time NHL All-Star (2007 & 2008) was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the sixth round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.

Brian Campbell’s Career Statistics:

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1999-00 Rochester Americans AHL 67 2 24 26 22 21 0 3 3 0
1999-00 Buffalo Sabres NHL 12 1 4 5 4 -- -- -- -- --
2000-01 Rochester Americans AHL 65 7 25 32 24 4 0 1 1 0
2000-01 Buffalo Sabres NHL 8 0 0 0 2 -- -- -- -- --
2001-02 Rochester Americans AHL 45 2 35 37 13 -- -- -- -- --
2001-02 Buffalo Sabres NHL 29 3 3 6 12 -- -- -- -- --
2002-03 Buffalo Sabres NHL 65 2 17 19 20 -- -- -- -- --
2003-04 Buffalo Sabres NHL 53 3 8 11 12 -- -- -- -- --
2004-05 Jokerit Helsinki SM-li 44 12 13 25 12 12 3 4 7 6
2005-06 Buffalo Sabres NHL 79 12 32 44 16 18 0 6 6 12
2006-07 Buffalo Sabres NHL 82 6 42 48 35 16 3 4 7 14
2007-08 Buffalo Sabres NHL 63 5 38 43 12 -- -- -- -- --
2007-08 San Jose Sharks NHL 20 3 16 19 8 13 1 6 7 4
2008-09 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 82 7 45 52 22 17 2 8 10 0
2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 68 7 31 38 18 19 1 4 5 2
2010-11 Chicago Blackhawks NHL 65 5 22 27 6 7 1 2 3 6
NHL Totals 626 54 258 312 167 90 8 30 38 38

Panthers Spend Some Big Bucks, Get Brian Campbell for Rusty Olesz

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Just as it appeared the opening day of the NHL draft was going to be uneventful for the Panthers, Dale Tallon pulled off a big deal.

The Panthers confirmed early Saturday morning that they had acquired Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell -- who waived his no-trade clause to come to south.

The much maligned and oft-injured Rostislav Olesz went to Chicago in return.

Tallon said that the deal was not done and wouldn't comment on it further. Less than an hour later, it was.

“Nothing is official yet,'' Tallon said. “It's not official yet. It's in the works.''

With Campbell comes a huge contract, one that Tallon signed when he was general manager of the Blackhawks. Campbell, 32, is set to make $7.1 million in each of the next five seasons.

Olesz is also a highly paid player, with a cap hit of $3.1 million in each of the next three seasons. Olesz will actually make substantially more than that number – he'll be paid over $4 million in the final two years of the contract -- in real salary.

The Panthers need to spend around $30 million to reach the league-mandated salary cap floor this season. Getting Campbell on board goes a long way in fulfilling those obligations.

Campbell spent his first eight NHL seasons with Buffalo before being traded to San Jose in 2008 to help the Sharks' playoff run. Campbell then signed the large eight-year deal worth over $57 million with Tallon and the Blackhawks later that summer.

Some have said Campbell hasn't lived up to the big contract, scoring 19 goals with 108 assists. But he did help the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010 as he was strong throughout the postseason. Tallon seems to be of the mind that he would sign that contract again.

“He played 28 minutes a game, has offense, can skate the puck out of your zone, skate like the wind,'' Tallon said when asked what he liked about Campbell's game in 2008.

“He can skate all night long and a lot of teams don't have that. .-.-. Whatever market value is at that time, it was an important signing for the [Chicago] franchise. It told everyone in Chicago and in the league that the Blackhawks were making a commitment to win. That's what that statement was.''


June 24, 2011

Florida Panthers Draft Notebook: Nugent-Hopkins No. 1; Connor Murphy -- Gord's Kid -- Goes 20th to Phoenix

Nugent ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Edmonton Oilers had the first overall pick in the NHL Draft for the second straight year. On Friday, the Oilers erased all the questions surrounding whom they would pick when they selected center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Nugent-Hopkins plays his junior hockey not far from Edmonton, leading the Western Hockey League's Red Deer Rebels with 31 goals and 75 assists this past season.

The Oilers took Taylor Hall with the first pick last June in Los Angeles.

“There were a ton of nerves, not just for me but for my family,'' Nugent-Hopkins said after the selection. “This is a huge relief.”

The Avalanche held the second pick and there was some thought it would take talented defenseman Scott Larsson. Instead, the Avs went with winger Gabriel Landeskog. With Landeskog gone, the Panthers took Jonathan Huberdeau with the third pick. 


The former Atlanta Thrashers officially took their new name as the franchise was re-christened the Winnipeg Jets. The former Winnipeg Jets played in Manitoba, Canada, from 1972-96 (1979-96 in the NHL) before moving to Phoenix and becoming the Coyotes. 

The Jets didn't unveil their new jersey nor their logo. First round pick Mark Scheifele wore a plain black jersey with the NHL shield on the front. Scheifele was definitely a surprise pick as he came into the draft the 16th ranked skater in North America.

Winnipeg's selection allowed the Flyers to grab center Sean Couturier. Couturier came into the season as the favorite to be the top overall pick, but he dropped to the sixth-ranked North American skater by the final rankings. Philadelphia moved up to the eighth spot after trading Jeff Carter to Columbus on Thursday. 

When asked if he thought Couturier would be there when the Flyers picked, general manager Paul Holmgren smiled and said “no, no I didn't.''

Cmurphy -- Connor Murphy, the son of Panthers assistant coach Gord, was taken by the Coyotes with the 20th overall pick. Connor Murphy, a defenseman like his dad, is the 25th ranked North American skater by Central Scouting.

-- The Panthers unveiled their new red home jerseys at Friday's draft, with first round pick Jonathan Huberdeau wearing the retro-looking jerseys. The Panthers have worn blue at home almost exclusively since 2001; the red alternate jerseys were phased out during the Reebok jersey redesign in 2007. 

The new jerseys look similar to the team's Huber original look, although the jersey has more blue on the shoulders as that color block runs down the arms. The leaping cat logo is unchanged.

“It's great,'' Huberdeau said. “We have [the number] 11 for 2011, but that's my number, and also I think it's great to have that. It's great to wear that for the first time. .-.-. Yeah, I like the color. It doesn't matter the color. I just want to wear it.''

-- The draft concludes Saturday with the second round starting at 11 a.m. The Panthers have nine picks in the final six rounds. 


Florida Panthers to Land Brian Campbell? Dale Tallon Mum on Rostislav Olesz Trade to Chicago

CAMPBELL ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Just as it appeared the opening day of the NHL draft was going to be uneventful for the Panthers, Dale Tallon appeared to be on the verge of pulling off a big deal.

Canada's TSN reported that Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell had agreed to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Panthers. The much maligned Rostislav Olesz was expected to be heading to Chicago in return.

Tallon said that the deal was not done and wouldn't comment on it further.

“Nothing is official yet,'' Tallon said. “It's not official yet. It's in the works.''

With Campbell comes a huge contract, one that Tallon signed when he was general manager of the Blackhawks. Campbell, 32, is set to make $7.1 million in each of the next five seasons. 

Olesz is also a highly paid player, with a cap hit of $3.1 million in each of the next three seasons. Olesz will actually make substantially more than that number – he'll be paid over $4 million in the final two years of the contract -- in real salary.

The Panthers need to spend around $30 million to reach the league-mandated salary cap floor this season. Getting Campbell on board goes a long way in fulfilling those obligations. 

Campbell spent his first eight NHL seasons with Buffalo before being traded to San Jose in 2008 to help the Sharks' playoff run. Campbell then signed the large eight-year deal worth over $57 million with Tallon and the Blackhawks later that summer. 

Some have said Campbell hasn't lived up to the big contract, scoring 19 goals with 108 assists. But he did help the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010 as he was strong throughout the postseason. Tallon seems to be of the mind that he would sign that contract again.

“He played 28 minutes a game, has offense, can skate the puck out of your zone, skate like the wind,'' Tallon said when asked what he liked about Campbell's game in 2007.

“He can skate all night long and a lot of teams don't have that. .-.-. Whatever market value is at that time, it was an important signing for the [Chicago] franchise. It told everyone in Chicago and in the league that the Blackhawks were making a commitment to win. That's what that statement was.'' 

Earlier in the night, the Panthers used the third overall selection to take center Jonathan Huberdeau. 

Instead of dealing the third pick, the Panthers stood pat and took a forward with their first pick for the first time since Michael Frolik went 10th in 2006.

Before taking Huberdeau, the Panthers spent their past four top picks on defensemen or goaltenders. 

Huberdeau, a native of Quebec who played junior hockey in English-speaking New Brunswick, said he is excited about the opportunity to join a Panthers organization that is young and needs plenty of help.

“It's a great feeling to be called for Florida. It's a great team,'' said Huberdeau, who scored 58 goals with 82 assists over the past two seasons.

“It's a dream since you're young, and now to get called it's a foot in the door to make the NHL. I can't ask for anything more this season.I did everything on the ice I had to do for the Memorial Cup, so that was great, and I'm happy that Florida took me.

"I've always had that dream to be drafted in the NHL and to go to the rink and always have fun. You need to have fun if you want to play hockey, and that's what I'm doing right now.''

Huberdeau has been impressive in his junior career, with the Panthers seeing an eyeful of the 6-foot-1 playmaker during the Canadian national tournament last month. Huberdeau earned Memorial Cup MVP honors as he led the Saint John Sea Dogs to the title by scoring three goals with three assists. 

With the draft so close to the Memorial Cup, Huberdeau said he didn't get to celebrate as much as he wanted to. 

A good showing in training camp this fall, and he won't get a chance to defend his championship as he could play for the Panthers this season. Huberdeau knows it's probable that he'll be returned to his junior team for more seasoning this year – both Tallon and assistant GM Mike Santos say the days of rushing prospects in Florida is over. 

Yet the thought of wearing the new Panthers jersey next season instead of returning to his junior team will fuel his offseason workouts. Huberdeau is expected to be part of the Panthers development camp held at the team's training facility in Coral Springs next month. It's the first step in him realizing his dream of playing in the NHL. 

“I think I had a good season,'' Huberdeau said. “I'm going to work very hard to get stronger this summer and everything to get ready for Florida training camp.''

The Panthers Have Their Man: Jonathan Huberdeau

Huber11 ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Panthers ended up keeping the third overall pick on Friday night and took talented center Jonathan Huberdeau with the selection.

Huberdeau, whom you can read more about right here, was the MVP of the 2011 Memorial Cup as he had three goals for St. John's.

Will he be here next year? Time will tell. He'll get the shot and the Panthers could use his contract to help fill out that $30 million.

Last year, Huberdeau scored 43 goals with 62 assists in 67 games for the Sea Dogs.

On Frozen Poll: Who is the Florida Panthers Top Draft Pick?

Guds ST. PAUL, Minn. -- OK, since we're at the draft, how about a draft question?

Who is the top pick in Florida Panthers history?

Since I only have room for 10 guys, Dennis Shvidki doesn't make the cut -- although what a glorious pick that turned out to be.

Panthers currently picking third tonight, but who knows if they actually will.

Tick tock, tick tock.


On Frozen Poll: Who is the Top Coach in Florida Panthers History

Dineen ST. PAUL, Minn. --As we sit here getting ready for the start of the 2011 NHL Draft at the Minnesota Wild Center, figured I'd throw something out there for everyone to talk about.

This poll: Who is the top coach in Florida Panthers history?

Kevin Dineen, the 11th coach in the short history of the franchise, is pictured here. He is not part of the poll just yet.

But Roger Neilson is. As is Doug MacLean. And Terry Murray, Jacques Martin, Mike Keenan and Pete DeBoer.

Who's your choice?

Vote below.


Here is the 'New' Florida Panthers Jersey

Here is the 'New' Florida Panthers Jersey

Here is the 'New' Florida Panthers Jersey

Here is the 'New' Florida Panthers Jersey

Here is the 'New' Florida Panthers Jersey

Here is the 'New' Florida Panthers Jersey

June 23, 2011

More on the Panthers 2011-12 Schedule

Ukhockey MINNEAPOLIS – The Panthers will have a new look next season, one that makes its official debut on Oct. 8 against the Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y.

The NHL officially released the 2011-12 schedule on Thursday, with the Panthers opening their season with two road games (Islanders, at Pittsburgh on Oct. 11) before coming home to face the rival Lightning on Oct. 15. Florida will play four of its first five games away from Sunrise.

Unlike past seasons, the Panthers won't be burdened with many home-and-road games on consecutive nights. The Panthers have 13 back-to-back sets during the season, with four of them coming in March – the most of any one month. Many of them are manageable, however, with a number of them being games within Pennsylvania, Florida or the New York metro area. 

The Panthers also won't spend too much time at home nor the road at one time. The Panthers season-long homestand is four games; that is the same number for Florida's longest road trip.

“It's better, but it's still not where I want it to be,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. “The end is very busy with a lot of games. [If Florida is] fighting for a playoff spot, that concerns me.

"There are a lot of games on top of each other and there are a lot of road games. Overall, it's a good schedule. But you have to play all 82. Everyone has issues with the schedules but the better your team, the less of an issue it becomes.''

Other highlights:

-- Thanksgiving Week will feature visits from New Jersey (Nov. 21), the New York Rangers (Nov. 23) and Tampa Bay (Nov. 25).

-- The Panthers will also be home after Christmas, playing host to Toronto (Dec. 27), the Rangers (Dec. 30) and the now annual New Year's Eve game against Montreal.

-- Florida will visit Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the first time since March 7, 1996 (a 5-3 loss) when the Panthers play the yet-unnamed team on Nov. 10. The Panthers will visit Winnipeg three times this season (with Winnipeg also coming to Sunrise three times) as the former Atlanta Thrashers remain in the Southeast Division for a final season.

-- All home games, save for ones on Sunday, will begin at 7:30 p.m. The Panthers had played Saturday home games at 7.

-- Nathan Horton and the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins make their first visit in Sunrise on Jan. 16. The defending Western Conference champion Canucks – featuring former Florida goalie Roberto Luongo – come to town on Jan. 9.

-- The regular season ends with three division games. The Panthers host Winnipeg on April 3, visit Washington on April 5 and finish up at home against Carolina on April 7.


There are a few conflicts between the Panthers and the Dolphins/Hurricanes. A lot of these conflicts are when one team is away, so that's good.

October 8: UM @ Virginia Tech; FLA @ NYI

Oct. 15: UM @ North Carolina; TB @ FLA

Oct. 17: Dolphins @ Jets; FLA @ TB

Oct. 22: Georgia Tech @ UM; NYI @ FLA

Oct. 27: Virginia @ UM; FLA @ OTT

Nov. 6: Dolphins @ Kansas City; TB @ FLA

Nov. 13: Redskins @ Dolphins; PHL @ FLA

Nov. 19: UM @ USF; TB @ FLA

Nov. 25: Boston College @ UM; TB @ FLA

Dec. 11: Eagles @ Dolphins; FLA @ NYR

Dec. 18: Dolphins @ Buffalo; CAR @ FLA