The Panthers are in a much different position this year than they were at last year's NHL trade deadline.
General manager Dale Tallon's work at this time last season is a big reason for that.
And it's a big reason why the Panthers were so quiet as this year's trade deadline came and went.
By the time the 3 p.m. deadline hit, the Panthers stood pat. They didn't add, and unlike last year, they didn't subtract.
“It's no fun being a seller,'' Tallon said. “It was necessary last year.''
Tallon said he didn't really come close to making a deal as “you have to have a partner to dance with,'' and that he was happy with the two minor moves the team made over the weekend. Florida brought in Jerred Smithson from Nashville for a sixth round pick on Friday before acquiring Wojtek Wolski from the Rangers for a minor leaguer and a third round selection in 2013.
At last year's deadline, Florida shipped out Dennis Wideman, Radek Dvorak, Chris Higgins and Bryan Allen. Bryan McCabe and Cory Stillman, who eventually retired, were traded away in the days leading up to the 2011 deadline.
Those moves helped the Panthers clear a ton of salary as Tallon went into the free agency period pockets filled with cash and contracts. Tallon was able to rebuild the Panthers roster with players who have helped the team go into the final 21 games atop the Southeast Division.
“We made a lot of phone calls and identified what we wanted to add to our lineup,'' Tallon said from the BankAtlantic Center just before leaving for the airport to join the team for their flight to Toronto.
“We couldn't get what we wanted without mortgaging our future. There just wasn't a lot of activity. We made our moves early and they would have cost us more to do [Monday]. I'm happy with our team. We improved it. We're going to stay with the team that has 70 points, is in first place and is battling for a playoff spot.''
Tallon wasn't alone as there was only a handful of minor deals before 1 p.m. and fewer than in years past. A number of trades were made leading up to the deadline day.
There had been talk that the Panthers may be shopping defenseman Jason Garrison because of his pending free agency, although assistant general manager Mike Santos scoffed at that idea on Sunday. Tallon reiterated that Garrison – who came into the season with seven career goals and has 13 this year alone – is a key piece to the Panthers.
“We're going to continue to negotiate and get him a fair contract,'' Tallon said. “He's a valuable asset. One of our strengths is our defense. It's very good. We're a good mobile fast defensive team that can move the puck out and contribute offensively. Jason is a good shutdown guy with a big shot. We're going to continue to work diligently to get a contract.''
Mikael Samuelsson, another potential free agent come July 1, is now playing on Florida's top line with Stephen Weiss and Sean Bergenheim and wasn't being shopped either.
Florida coach Kevin Dineen seems happy with the additions the Panthers made before the deadline as a pair of veteran NHL players were added to the fold.
“It makes you a better coach,'' Dineen said after Florida's 4-2 win over the Canadiens on Sunday.
“Better players really diversify your options. You can look down the bench and you don't have to tap the same guys on the shoulder time after time after time. And that really helps with guys wearing down. Both the players we have added bring good qualities.''
Both Smithson and Wolski come to the Panthers fresh as both had seen their playing time diminish.
Smithson seemed to lose a numbers battle in Nashville while Wolski got hurt and needed sports hernia surgery in November. When he came back, the Rangers were the top team in the Eastern Conference and he saw just three games of action.
Both players are obviously hungry to help the Panthers get to the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.
“It's great to be here because it's been a tough year,'' Wolski said. “I didn't expect to get injured and I didn't expect the team to go on a tear like they did. It was hard to go to the rink and be positive sometimes but that's what you need to do.''
Said Smithson: “I kind of had an idea I would be traded and I'm happy it was here. This is a team going in the right direction. There is a good bunch of guys. It was strange to leave Nashville because I had been there so long, but this is a nice change for me, a new chapter. This will keep me energized and on my toes.''
() Tallon said he didn't have an update on winger Kris Versteeg after he left Sunday's game. Dineen said Versteeg was sore after Saturday's game in Carolina but played Sunday. He is considered questionable for Tuesday's game against the Maple Leafs.
TUESDAY: PANTHERS AT MAPLE LEAFS
When, Where: 7 p.m.; Air Canada Center, Toronto
TV/Radio: FS Florida/WQAM-560
The series: Toronto leads 29-22-7
The game: The Maple Leafs have struggled of late and have fallen below the playoff mark after losing four straight and eight of the past nine. The Panthers have won both meetings between the two this season, outscoring the Leafs 10-4 in the process. Florida has won two straight games overall and three straight away from Sunrise.