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17 posts from June 2012

June 30, 2012

OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Free Agency Kicks off Sunday; Will Panthers Be Busy?

Panthermeet1The Panthers, and the rest of the NHL I guess, will open up free agency on Sunday at noon.

Dale Tallon and Mike Santos won't be as busy as they were last year when they signed four players in the opening two hours and a total of eight by the time the day ended.

I will be up bright and early working on things tomorrow.

For the quickest up-to-the-minute updates, follow me on Twitter @GeorgeRichards

If you aren't into the tweets, you can also like my Facebook page (On Frozen Pond) which hasn't been updated very much since the end of last season but will be used tomorrow.

It's just a lot easier to get news out on those two outlets via my iPhone than it is to log on here. Although there will be news posted here tomorrow -- just after the Twitter and Facebook accounts go.

Anyway, here is my story on the opening of free agency for tomorrow.

Who do you think the Panthers should go after tomorrow? The comment section awaits --

BY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Dale Tallon went into free agency last summer with a barren roster, a pocket filled with contracts and a briefcase full of cash.

Panthermeet2By the time the opening day ended, Tallon had signed or traded for eight new players. In one day, Tallon reconstructed the Panthers roster.

Those moves, for the most part, paid big dividends as Florida won its first division championship, advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 12 years and came within a goal of knocking off the eventual Eastern Conference champion Devils.

On Sunday, Tallon and assistant general manager Mike Santos will embark on another free agency opening day.

At noon Sunday, the market opens and Florida expects to be a player – although definitely not as busy as last July 1. First, Florida doesn't have as many holes. Second, this isn't exactly a bumper crop of free agents.

The Panthers don't have the glaring needs they did last summer – although there are a few holes that could use patching.

Florida's offense last year was, for big stretches of the season, offensive. The Panthers are pretty strong on defense but need to find a goalie – or not. More on that later.

“We're not looking at one thing, but we're trying to get better any way we can,'' Santos said. “We know we need to get more scoring and if that's available, we'll get it. If we can't, we could probably be bigger and more physical up front and we'll go that way.''

Florida currently has one goaltender coming back from last season, although Jacob Markstrom could join Jose Theodore as the Panthers tandem. That is, unless, the Panthers complete a much-rumored trade with Vancouver and bring Roberto Luongo back to South Florida.

LuongopinkpantherLuongo, Florida's franchise goalie from 2000 until traded to the Canucks by Mike Keenan in 2006, is likely done in Vancouver after Cory Schneider signed a three-year deal with the team on Thursday.

Luongo has 10 years left on the 12-year contract with Vancouver and it appears there is interest on all three (Vancouver, Florida and Luongo) sides to get a deal done. Luongo is said to have agreed to waive his no-trade clause to come back to Florida – where he and his family reside for much of the offseason.

Scott Clemmensen, Florida's backup the past three seasons, will be a free agent come Sunday.

Tallon said the Canucks and Panthers talked “goaltending” at last weekend's draft without mentioning Luongo by name; Santos said Friday neither sides have spoken about it since.

Florida could also have interest in future Hall of BrodeurplayoffFamer Martin Brodeur if he were to leave New Jersey after two decades with the Devils – possibly because of concerns with team ownership. Brodeur owns a home in Palm Beach County and won't come cheap.

Of the free agents who played for Florida last season, it's possible Jason Garrison played his final game with the Panthers although he could still sign with the team.

Garrison, who made an average of $675,000 the past two seasons, could garner $5 million per season on the open market after he scored a career-high 16 goals. Florida has reportedly offered Garrison around $3.5 million per season.

“We've kept the line of communications open,'' Santos said. “But when you get this close to July 1, typically, the player wants to see what his options are.''

The Panthers have spoken to Clemmensen and forwards Krys Barch and Mikael Samuelsson about returning – and it's possible the Panthers bring some or all of them back. The Panthers waived Mike Santorelli and Matt Bradley on Thursday.

Florida has quite a bit of money to spend to get to the raised salary cap floor, so don't be surprised if the Panthers make some big moves.

“We're ahead of schedule,'' Tallon said at the draft. “No one expected us to be where we're at this soon Neither did we, to be honest. We're satisfied we had a good year but we still have the same plan in place. We have long term goals, a blueprint, we're going to stick to. We're going to get better as we move forward.''


C Jason Arnott, St. Louis

Yes, getting up there in age, but can still score and make plays

G Martin Brodeur, New Jersey

The 40-year-old future Hall of Famer – and South Florida resident – led Devils to Stanley Cup Finals

RW Shane Doan, Phoenix

Doan is a Coyotes holdover from the Winnipeg days – but those days may soon end

D Jason Garrison, Florida

Do the Cats get a hometown discount after a career year on a contract year?

LW Jiri Hudler, Detroit

Scored 25 goals and 25 assists with the Wings last year and will get a raise from $3 million per

C Olli Jokinen, Calgary

It's doubtful Florida brings back its former captain although he would welcome a return

G Roberto Luongo, Vancouver

Not a free agent, but very much in play for the Panthers via trade

LW Dustin Penner, Los Angeles

Had 32 goals with Edmonton a few years back, has dropped off since

RW Alexander Semin, Washington

Some have questioned his play, but Semin is talented and can score from anywhere

D Ryan Suter, Nashville

Talented blueliner will command big bucks – likely out of the Panthers financial ballpark

LW Ray Whitney, Phoenix

The former Panthers fan favorite is still going strong at 40




June 28, 2012

ROSTER MOVE-OUTS: Panthers Put Santorelli and Bradley on Waivers as Free Agency Nears

BradleyBY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

The Panthers made a number of roster moves in the past few days as they prepare for the opening of free agency on Sunday.

On Thursday, the Panthers parted ways with forward Matt Bradley and likely did the same with winger Mike Santorelli as both were put on waivers.

Bradley, who signed a two-year deal with the Panthers last July 2, was placed on unconditional waivers – which means he will not return.

Florida will buy out the remainder of Bradley's contract and pay him two-thirds of the $1-million owed to him over the next two seasons.

BradleyhurtBradley played in just 45 games with the Panthers last year because of a couple of injuries – including a concussion suffered in February against the Ducks. That injury basically ended his season even though he practiced with the team during the playoffs.

Santorelli was placed on regular waivers, and Santorelli1although Florida could still bring him back, it is not likely. Santorelli is owed $1.6 million for next season so Florida would owe him almost $1.1 million over the next two years – if he isn't claimed by another team off re-entry waivers.

Santorelli signed a two-year deal with the Panthers after he had a breakout year in 2010-11 by scoring 20 goals and playing in all 82 games. But Santorelli missed the start of the year with a shoulder injury and never got on track offensively ending with nine goals in 60 games.

SantorelliTOSantorelli played in just one of Florida's final 12 regular season games and sat the entire postseason.

Florida also made qualifying offers to nine restricted free agents – including roster players Kris Versteeg, Dmitry Kulikov and Keaton Ellerby – on Monday.

Wotjek Wolski, who made $4 million last season from the Rangers and Panthers, was not tendered an offer and is a free agent. He will be eligible to sign with any team – including the Panthers – starting Sunday.


June 27, 2012

BACK ON THE ICE: #FlaPanthers Development Camp Starts Monday July 2

Many of the Florida Panthers top prospects will be back on the ice starting next week as the team hosts a development camp at their training facility in Coral Springs. 

The first practice will be Monday afternoon at 1. The Panthers will also hold workouts on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 until 11 a.m.

All workouts are free and open to the public.

Some of the top prospects include Erik Gudbranson (well, he's not really a prospect anymore), Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Matheson, Nick Bjugstad and Alex Petrovic.

The complete roster can be found here. See y'all next week. 

June 26, 2012

ROCKET IN THE HALL: Pavel Bure Elected to Hall of Fame

Pavel Bure, the Russian Mayor of South Beach, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

Bure, who won a pair of 'Rocket' Richard trophies during his time with the Panthers, is part of the Class of 2012.

Congrats to the most exciting player the Panthers have ever had. You have to think his No. 10 will be the first player's number to be retired by the team.

It will happen eventually. This year perhaps?

ROCKET IN THE HALL: Pavel Bure Elected to Hall of Fame

GAME ON: #FlaPanthers Ready for Game 7 v #njDevils in the Glades

BY DAVID J. NEAL dneal@MiamiHerald.com

TWITTER: @djneal @OnFrozenPond

The big building in Broward planted between swamp and shopping during the optimistic 1990s has seen three names, two playoff series and, Thursday at 8:30 p.m., one Game 7.

The Panthers waited 12 calendar years to bring the NHL playoffs back to South Florida. They dragged clinching the Southeast Division title out to the last game of the season. Now, they’ve dragged – or, been dragged by New Jersey – to the last game of the NHL playoffs’ first round.

“We haven’t made it easy on ourselves all season long, so, why now?” Panthers winger Kris Versteeg said Wednesday.

Versteeg still felt the sting of an uncalled trip as he cut for the Jersey net in overtime of Tuesday’s Game 6 – “Guess the rules changed a bit.” Then again, considering an uncalled trip on the Panthers’ Sean Bergenheim started the sequence to the Panthers second goal Tuesday, perhaps it’s another case of things evening out. That’s the way things have gone in this series in which the cheap shots generally have been confined to Twitter spats between non-combatants over plastic rats.

Each team took a 3-0 lead in the first two games and saw it reduced to 3-2 before hanging on to win. Each team’s scored 15 goals. Both No. 1 goalies got yanked in Game 3 and both produced shutouts the next time they hit the ice, New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur in Game 4 and the Panthers’ Jose Theodore in Game 5. Speaking of Theodore, who didn’t play in Game 6 because of an injury more secret in Sunrise than Secret Service activities in Colombia, he went through a half-hour practice Wednesday.

“You want to get back in there. You feel good about where your game is at and then there’s a let down,” Theodore said. “Obviously, it was frustrating to watch last game. But, today’s a new day and it’s good to be back on the ice.

“When you’re a kid, wne you play hockey, you imagine Gmae 7 in the Atnely Cup playoffs. It’s a game everybody wants to be part of and help the team win.”

Dineen, who has been coy about his choice of goaltender all season, said, “I just watched him for a few minutes and he looks pretty good out there this morning, so that’s encouraging for us. It gives us that option to go with him tomorrow night and that will be a health-based decision.

Questioned further, Dineen said while the Panthers trusted both Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, “Theo’s been our go-to guy and if he’s available, he’ll be the one running with it.”

Meanwhile, defenseman Jason Garrison, whose cannon shot helped the Panthers blast holes in New Jersey’s league-best penalty-killing unit over the first three games, said he’d likely be a game-time decision.

Game time’s 8:30 p.m., as the NHL chose to stagger the starts of this game and the Ottawa-Rangers Game 7.

“It’s going to be a long day,” Versteeg said. “You want to get started. But you do what’s best for the league. It’s a great time for us and great time to showcase our game.”

History favors neither team. Despite New Jersey’s four Stanley Cup Finals and three Cups since 1993, the Martin Brodeur Era, the franchise is only 6-7 in Game 7s, 3-5 on the road. And all those Cups and Game 7 wins came before the lockout. The post-lockout Devils suffered their own Collapse of 2009 when Carolina scored twice in the last 80 seconds for a 4-3 Game 7 win at New Jersey.

For the Panthers, their Game 7 history’s distance and brevity matches its irrelevance.

It’s been a driver’s age since that June 1996 Saturday night in Pittsburgh, when the Panthers won a Game 7 just the way you aren’t supposed to win them. Goalie John Vanbiesbrouck barely kept things even at 1 until Tom Fitzgerald’s third period line change slapshot careened off a leg and past Pittsburgh’s Tom Barrasso. The Panthers popped in an insurance goal for a 3-1 win and the Eastern Conference title.

In the Stanley Cup Final, Colorado ended the Panthers season in an epic Game 4 at Miami Arena. In fact, all three previous Panthers playoff appearances ended on home ice.

Of all the Game 7s, Dineen appeared in as a player, the one he recalled Wednesday didn’t end happily. Back when Carolina called a Hartford mall home, the Whalers went to overtime in Game 7 against Montreal in the 1986’s second round. A tight backhander by Montreal rookie Claude Lemieux sent the French-Canadian Hockey Night in Canada announcers into ecstasy and Canadiens forward in their march to an unlikely Stanley Cup.

But Dineen thought that resembled what’s going on now with the Panthers.

“I think it was a fan base in Hartford that had been re-invigorated,” he said. “There was an enthusiasm, an excitement in town. That’s a little bit what I feel here in South Florida with the amount of recognition you feel away from the rink, that people are engaged with our team. I know this team has a lot of personality, they’re really on board and it’s really an enjoyable time.”

Thursday, we’ll see if it continues.

June 23, 2012

CAPTAIN'S CLUB: Bryan McCabe Joins Brian Skrudland with Panthers Hockey Development

MccabeBY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

PITTSBURGH -- The Panthers had a familiar face at their draft table this weekend as Bryan McCabe joined the team's front office.

McCabe, the Panthers captain from 2009-11, officially joins the hockey development department July 1.

McCabe, who retired after not playing last season, helped Tallon during the trade deadline and was seen around the Panthers for a good part of the year.

“He wants to learn the business,'' GM Dale Tallon said. “And I think it's great.''

McCabe will help fellow former captain Brian Skrudland work with Florida's young talent on both the junior and minor league level. McCabe basically replaces former teammate Cory Stillman who recently left for Carolina.

“This is an opportunity to work with the kids,'' McCabe said. “I'm still relevant a little bit in which the kids know who I am. They saw me play. I think I can help out and groom these kids.''

SkrudlandSaid Skrudland: “I'm thrilled. We have a forward in development in myself and Bryan's a defenseman so we have things covered. He's fresh out of the game just like Cory was. Bryan has the hands-on where he just packed it in. He's a great addition.''


DRAFT FLIES BY: Panthers Get Four on Draft's Final Quick Day ... Cats Get Creative

DraftpittsBY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

PITTSBURGH – Although no one officially keeps track of these sort of these things, it is thought the NHL zipped through the second day of its draft on Saturday in record time.

It only took about 2 ½ hours to get through six rounds at the Consol Center as teams sent up pick after pick in rapid procession. The day would have gone by even a little faster had it not been for the Panthers.

Florida, which ended up taking four players on the second day, had to ask for more time during a selection. The Panthers called a timeout – drawing boos from the crowd and wise cracks from the media on Twitter – during the fourth round.

It wasn't that Florida's brain trust was indecisive. No, the player it wanted to take wasn't in the NHL central registry. Once Alexander Delnov was inserted and deemed draft eligible, the Panthers took him with the 114th overall pick.

“We had to make sure he was in the system so there was some confusion there,'' general manager Dale Tallon said. “We wanted to make sure we did everything legally correct.''

LemieuxstatueFlorida, which had made major deals at the previous six drafts, wasn't able to do much of anything here. The Panthers made one minor trade, swapping seventh round picks with Dallas. And that was it – although not for a lack of trying.

“I love the action,'' Tallon said with a grin, “but there wasn’t any. Sometimes you’re hitting the drives and sometimes you’re the one being hit. This year was just one of those years. We have a lot of prospects. We made some good picks. We're satisfied. We got some size, some speed and some grit.”

The Panthers didn't have a second round pick as it was handed off to Tampa Bay (via Philadelphia) as part of last July's trade for Kris Versteeg.

So, Florida's first pick of the day was center Steven Hodges of the Western Hockey League's Victoria Royals at 84. Director of amateur scouting Scott Luce said Hodges is a midsized forward with some skill to his game. “He's a competitive guy who is going to score,'' Luce said.

In total, Florida added five players – three forwards and two defensemen. By drafting so low in each round (Florida had the 23rd pick in each of the four rounds it had selections in, not counting the Dallas pick) the Panthers became a little creative.

Delnov is a player the Panthers knew from Russian scout Vadim Podrezov. Florida expects Delnov to play in the Canadian junior leagues this coming season.

“That was a wild-card pick, but he was a top-5, top-10 forward at the under-18 tournament in April,'' Luce said. “He plays for the club team who our Russian scout works. We know this kid inside and out. He wants to come to North America to play and he was a player we valued. We sort of had an inside track.''

Shayne() South Florida had another one of its own taken in the draft as Margate's Shayne Gostisbehere was taken in the third round by the Flyers.

Gostisbehere, a defenseman, played for the Junior Panthers in Coral Springs growing up and played in the NCAA's Frozen Four for Union College this past season.

() The Panthers will hold a developmental camp for many of its prospects and recent draftees starting next Sunday. The first on-ice workout will be Tuesday, July 3, at the team's training facility in Coral Springs. It is free and open to the public.


Who: Mike Matheson, defenseman

How acquired: First round, 23rd overall

Age, hometown: 18; Pointe-Claire, Quebec

Scouting report: The 6-foot-1 defenseman is off to national power Boston College in the fall and should play at least two seasons with the Eagles. Matheson is a good skater and has some zip to his shot.

Who: Steven Hodges

How acquired: Third round, 84th overall

Age, hometown: 18; Delta, British Columbia

Scouting report: Hodges is a good sized center with a sense of scoring as he put in 21 goals for Victoria of the Western Hockey League this past season.

Who: Alexander Delnov, left wing

How acquired: Fourth round, 114th overall

Age, hometown: 18; Moskva, Russia

Scouting report: Delnov only scored 11 goals for his junior team in Russia this season, but he played well at the under-18 World Championships where he caught Florida's attention.

Who: Francis Beauvillier, left wing/center

How acquired: Sixth round, 174th overall

Age, hometown: 18; Sorel-Tracy, Quebec

Scouting report: The Panthers feel Beauvillier will get better as he gets stronger although they like his decision making and play on both ends of the ice.

Who: Jonatan Nielsen, defenseman

How acquired: Seventh round (via trade with Dallas), 194th overall

Age, hometown: 18; Anderstorp, Sweden

Scouting report: At 6-3, Nielsen has good size although he's not looked at to put up many points offensively. He is good with the stick, however, and could develop.



June 22, 2012

QUIET NIGHT IN PITT FOR PANTHERS: Tallon Stays Pat, Picks D Mike Matheson at No. 23 ... Southeast Rivals Get 'Er Done

MathesonBY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

PITTSBURGH – The Florida Panthers go into next season as the defending Southeast Division champions.

Based on Friday, repeating as champions won't come easy.

Both Carolina and Washington swung deals on the opening night of the NHL Draft at the Consol Center. Those trades should make both teams at least a little better.

The Hurricanes, who missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, traded for Pittsburgh star Jordan Staal a day after Staal turned down a 10-year contract with the Penguins.

Staal, younger brother of Hurricanes' All-Star center Eric, can be a free agent after next season. “We'll figure out a way to keep him,'' Carolina GM Jim Rutherford said.

Carolina sent the eighth overall pick, forward Brandon Sutter and a prospect to the Penguins for the 23-year-old Jordan Staal.

Washington, which finished just two points behind Florida after winning the division the previous four seasons, picked up the second-line center it has been missing in Mike Ribeiro.

The Capitals sent Cody Eakin and a second round pick to Dallas for Ribeiro – who scored 18 goals with 45 assists for the Stars last season.

Florida, meanwhile, wasn't able to create any trade magic – at least just yet.

The Panthers had made a major deal at the draft the past six years but didn't make any on Friday. The Panthers stood pat and took defenseman Mike Matheson with the 23rd overall selection.

Past draft-day deals by the Panthers included sending Roberto Luongo to Vancouver in 2006, acquiring Tomas Vokoun in 2007 and sending Olli Jokinen to Phoenix in 2008.

“There are things you can't control,'' said GM Dale Tallon, who traded Keith Ballard at the 2010 draft and picked up reigning Lady Byng winner Brian Campbell last June.

“The conversations happened but it has to be the right mix. That's the way it goes. We had a wonderful year and moved to the back of the grid. We didn't have the picks to accomplish the deals. But we got a guy we really wanted.''

The Panthers seemingly have struck gold with their past two drafts in which Florida had the third overall pick. With defenseman Erik Gudbranson and forward Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers have a pair of players who should be in their lineup for years to come.

There is no such expectations for Matheson. A native of Quebec, Matheson is headed to Boston College in the fall.

The Panthers knew Matheson is off to the national power program – and is more than fine with that. Matheson, who is 6-foot-1, scored 11 goals last season for Dubuque of the USHL; he was ranked the 30th North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.

“His greatest asset is his skating. It's just incredible,'' said Brian Skrudland, former captain of the Panthers who is now the team's director of player development. “We think we got a special one.''

Said Tallon: “He's arguably the best skater in the draft. He can move the puck and I like guys like that.''

The Panthers are deep on defense within the organization but that didn't seem to faze Matheson. Florida will hold a development camp in July with Matheson expected to attend.

“In every organization they have defensemen coming up,'' he said. “It's up to me to do what I have to do. I have to perform.''

() Edmonton had the top pick in the draft for the third straight year and added Nail Yakupov to the Oilers' young stable of talented forwards. Taylor Hall (27 goals last season) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (18) were Edmonton's previous No. 1 selections.

Yakupov becomes only the third Russian to be taken first overall, joining Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin. The winger had 31 goals in 42 games for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League last year. Yakupov left Russia to play in Canada and prepare himself for the NHL.

“I’m ready for the NHL,” he said. “It's a great team, a young team. They are young but they played good. I think it's going to be a great team.''

Columbus, which had the worst record in the league but didn't win the draft lottery, took defenseman Ryan Murray with the second overall pick.

() The draft concludes Saturday at 10 a.m. with the second through seventh rounds. The final six rounds will be broadcast on the NHL Network.

Florida could have four selections remaining as the Panthers have the option to send their second round pick to Tampa Bay (as part of the Kris Versteeg deal with Philadelphia last summer).

If the Panthers keep the pick, they will surrender their second round selection next June. Florida doesn't currently have selections in the fifth or seventh rounds.


Who: Mike Matheson, defenseman

How acquired: First round, 23rd overall

Age, hometown: 18, Pointe-Claire, Quebec

Scouting report: The 6-foot-1 defenseman is off to national power Boston College in the fall and should play at least two seasons with the Eagles. Matheson is a good skater and has some zip to his shot.  


June 21, 2012

MAKE YOUR PLANS: Panthers Schedule is Out (and Aboot)

PalmpilotThe NHL released its full schedule for the 2012-13 season on Thursday with the Panthers opening up in Sunrise on Oct. 13 against Tampa Bay.

Florida will raise its first Southeast Division championship banner that night.

The Panthers have a franchise-tying seven-game homestand from Feb. 24-March 10 and will go to the west coast twice within a month – although it's early. The Panthers travel to western Canada in November and to California and Arizona in December.

Florida will be home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas with the Rangers, Red Wings, Lightning, Capitals and Flyers coming to town from Nov. 21-Dec. 1.

The Panthers also play host to Nashville, the Lightning and Montreal from Dec. 23-28 with the Rangers playing the New Year's Eve game at 6 p.m.

For the full schedule, click here eh. 



DRAFT DAY NEARS: Panthers To Pick 23rd (For Now) ... Jason Garrison Update

HuberdraftBY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

PITTSBURGH – Dale Tallon has had one of the best views in the house at the past two NHL drafts, the Florida Panthers team table set up right near the stage.

When you have high picks, you sit near the action.

The Panthers will be in the back of the room when the draft starts Friday night – and Tallon couldn't be happier. For having a lower pick means you did something right during the season.

Florida finished last in its division the previous two seasons and had the third overall pick each time. This past season, the Panthers went from worst to first and claimed the franchise's first divisional title. Instead of picking in the top five, the Panthers pick 23rd.

“Going from three to 23 is huge. It's a big jump,'' Tallon said Thursday afternoon after a full day of traveling east from the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

“That's where you want to be. You have to pay a price to pick one, two, three, four or five. Hopefully to get to where you're in the last row for a long time.''

The 2012 draft will be held at the Penguins' Consol Center starting with the first round Friday at 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Network). The second round will start Saturday morning.

Florida has a total of five picks – unless Tallon swings some deals. Tallon is expected to be busy as usual. Whether he has trading partners remains to be seen.

In the previous two drafts, the Panthers had a very good idea whom they were going to take. In 2010, defenseman Erik Gudbranson was the no-brainer pick Gudsdraftwhen Florida came up with the third pick. Last summer, the Panthers took slick scorer Jonathan Huberdeau.

This time around? Florida has a good idea of who will be available when its pick comes up. But there are a lot more intangibles this time around meaning more homework for amateur scouting director Scott Luce and his crew.

“We have a range of players we're talking to,'' Luce said. “We spent a lot of time with a lot of players; the due diligence for us has almost tripled because we're picking 23rd. We're going to get a player who will play in the NHL.''

Florida feels it can get an impact player with the 23rd pick. In 2010, the Panthers took winger Quinton Howden at 25.

Top NHL players taken with the 23rd selection include Travis Green (1989), Ray Whitney (1991), Todd Bertuzzi (1993), Tim Gleason (2001), Ryan Kesler (2003) and Andrej Meszaros (2004).

“Whether it's the 23rd or the third, they are still important picks. You still have to do your homework,'' Tallon said.

“We have to make the best of this situation. We're going to get the best possible player at 23 that fits our needs. We have a ballpark of guys. Last year we had three on the list. Right now it's 50 or 60.''

() Tallon said there has been no change in status with unrestricted free agent Jason Garrison, although he will continue to speak with Garrison's agent at the draft.

Garrison can walk away from the Panthers on July 1 if a deal isn't reached. Tallon said Florida has a deal on the table.

Tallon also said no team has contacted him regarding trading for Garrison's negotiating rights.

Florida traded the rights to Jay Bouwmeester at the 2009 draft.


2003: Anthony Stewart (25th)

Has played in 262 NHL games; Released by Panthers in 2009

2004: Rostislav Olesz (7th)

Played in 355 NHL games; Traded to Chicago last June and spent most of season in minors

2005: Kenndal McArdle (20th)

Played in 42 NHL games; Traded to Winnipeg last July and spent most of season in minors

2006: Michael Frolik (10th)

Played in 304 NHL games; Traded to Chicago in 2011

2007: Keaton Ellerby (10th)

Played in 116 NHL games with Florida Panthers

2009: Dmitry Kulikov (14th)

Has played in 198 games with Panthers over past three seasons

2010: Erik Gudbranson (3rd)

Played in 72 games with Panthers as a rookie last season

2011: Jonathan Huberdeau (3rd)

Expected to play with Panthers this season



June 20, 2012

BYNG, BANG: Panthers Brian Campbell Wins Lady Byng in Vegas as Florida's Award Drought Ends ... Dale Tallon Snubbed

Campbell3TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers became the first defenseman in 58 years to win the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy that honors sportsmanship and “gentlemanly conduct” at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.

Florida's Dale Tallon lost out to St. Louis' Doug Armstrong for the league's General Manager of the Year Ward.

Campbell, who came to the Panthers in a draft-day trade last June, is only the third defenseman (Bill Quackenbush, Red Kelly) in the history of the award to win it.

This season, Campbell led the league in ice time and committed just three penalties. Campbell was also Florida's lone representative at the All-Star Game.

Campbell spent most of his acceptance speech thanking members of the Panthers organization including Tallon, owner Cliff Viner and coach Kevin Dineen.

Campbell received 31 first-place votes and was named on 89 of the 147 ballots that were cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Campbell's 582 points edged out Edmonton's Jordan Eberle (518) and Matt Moulson (517) of the Islanders.

Martin St. Louis, who won the award the past two seasons, finished fifth in the voting.

“To be the first defenseman to win this since 1954, well, I'll take pride in that,'' Campbell said.

Campbell becomes the Panthers first voted-on award winner in franchise history.

Pavel Bure won the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Award -- twice -- which automatically goes to the player with the most goals in a single season.

June 19, 2012

MARIO'S WORLD: Chalmers Comes Back Strong, Helps Heat Beat Thunder 104-98


TWITTER: @George Richards

Dwyane Wade wasn't asked his opinion of how Mario Chalmers played on Tuesday night, but he gave it anyway.

ABC television caught it, broadcast it live and could be fined by the FCC because of it.

Wade used one expletive twice– the word Ralphie called “the queen-mother of dirty words” in A Christmas Story – to punctuate Chalmers' huge game.

Some Heat fans were likely using the same word earlier in the game when Chalmers missed his first three shots as the Heat fell behind by double-digits.

Yet Wade used the word in praise as Chalmers came up large in Miami's 104-98 victory in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Not only did Chalmers score a playoff-high 25 points, but he scored the Heat's final five points of the night. Miami now has control of the series with a 3-1 lead and Game 5 here on Thursday.

"That kid,'' coach Erik Spoelstra said, “is not afraid of any moment. We all know that. He's a gutsy kid.''

RalphieAll of Chalmers' points came after he returned to the court with 8:37 left in the second and Miami down four. Miami trailed by 11 when Chalmers initially left; Eight points from rookie Norris Cole fueled Miami's comeback.

Miami never really knows which Chalmers it's going to get. On Tuesday, the Heat got both the good and the bad of the point guard. Chalmers opened 0-for-3; in the fourth, he went on a 7-2 run with a 3-pointer, a lay-up and a 12-foot jumper to give Miami a six-point lead with 8:14 left.

With 44.6 seconds left, Chalmers drove the lane to give the Heat a five-point lead it wouldn't surrender. Chalmers then calmly drained a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left to ice it.

Chalmers, traded to Miami from Minnesota on draft night in 2008 after helping Kansas to the national title, has been erratic in four seasons with the Heat. That hasn't changed in the postseason. But he's definitely had his moments and Tuesday was one of them.

After scoring 12 points in the Game 1 loss in Oklahoma City, Chalmers scored a combined five points in Miami's wins the following two nights.

On Tuesday, however, the Heat don't come within a win of its second NBA championship without Chalmers. Before Chalmers drove in for a lay-up for his first points of the night soon after entering the game, he missed 16 of his previous 18 shots.

“The last couple of games he's had some open, clean looks and hasn't been able to knock them down,'' Spoelstra said.

“We told him the last two days that he'll get those opportunities again and to step up with confidence. We're all behind you, make or miss.''

Said Chalmers: “I didn't lose any confidence. I was rushing my shots.''

Although this is Chalmer's second foray into the HeatcourtFinals, this is Cole's first trip after being the 30th overall pick by Chicago last summer. Miami worked Cole out before the draft and liked him so much it swung a deal with the Bulls to get him.

Spoelstra has made it clear he is a big fan of the guard from Cleveland State, saying he was “tough as nails” and that “I love that guy.''

Since scoring six points against Indiana in Game 2 of the east semifinals, Cole had just nine points in the following 11 games. Tuesday, his spot shooting was just what the Heat needed.

With 2:59 left in the first quarter, Cole came in for LeBron James and promptly drove in for a lay-up that cut Oklahoma City's deficit to 13. Cole then drained a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left in the quarter that made it a 33-19 game – then clocked another trey 40 seconds into the second.

Cole's back-to-back 3-pointers helped kickstart Miami's 16-0 run that pulled the Heat to within a point. When Cole left the court, he did so to a standing ovation. Teammate James Jones called Cole “the man of the hour'' in the Heat locker room.

“He was huge and I credit him with being a pro,'' Jones said. “He's a mentally tough kid. He keeps getting his reps if he's in the rotation or if he isn't. He makes adjustments on the fly. He was a huge boost for us.''







GARRISON UPDATE: Tallon Says Panthers Have Made Offer; Will He Sign?


General manager Dale Tallon said the Panthers have made an offer to free agent defenseman Jason Garrison and that he plans to meet with Garrison's agent when he travels to Pittsburgh for the NHL draft this weekend.

Garrison, who had a career season with 16 goals and 17 assists, can leave the Panthers on July 1.

“We're going to go right to the wire with this,'' Tallon said. “We'll see where it goes. We're optimistic, but we have to have contingency plans just in case. We have young players who we're going to have to count on sooner or later.''


CATS IN VEGAS: Panthers Dale Tallon, Brian Campbell up for 'Major Awards'

LampBY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

Two members of the Florida Panthers are in Las Vegas and could cash in big on Wednesday.

If they do so at the tables, that would simply be a nice bonus.

The 2012 NHL Awards will be held at the Wynn Las Vegas on Wednesday night with Dale Tallon up for General Manager of the Year honors and defenseman Brian Campbell a Lady Byng Memorial Trophy finalist.

The two-hour show will be shown live on NBC Sports Network starting at 7 p.m.

Tallon recently completed his second season behind the helm of the Panthers. In his two years, he shed almost as much salary (by trading the likes of Nathan Horton, Keith Ballard, Bryan McCabe, David Booth and Rostislav Olesz) as he added (Campbell, Ed Jovanovski, Tomas Fleischmann and Scottie Upshall).

The result is a Panthers roster that is has been completely turned upside down. In April, the Panthers made the postseason for the first time in an NHL-record 10 seasons.

“We had a solid group of athletes, but they were better people. That's what we wanted to bring to Florida,'' Tallon told reporters in Vegas on Tuesday.

“The unknown was whether anyone wanted to come to Florida. We were successful at the deadline to be Ratpackable to move cash and allow ourselves to be aggressive. But we didn't know who would come. We exceeded expectations on July 1 and had a good year. That sends a message to the hockey world that we're committed and want to win.''

Campbell, who agreed to a trade from Chicago based on conversations with Tallon, is vying to be the first defenseman in almost 60 years to win the Byng – an award to the player who “exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."

Only two defensemen (Bill Quakenbush and Red Kelly) have ever won it, the last being Kelly in 1954. Campbell, Florida's lone All-Star this past season, led the league in ice time but only took three penalties all season.

Of Campbell's 2,354 shifts Campbell skated in during the regular season, just three earned him a trip to the penalty box. One was for delay of game. “A dumb one,'' he said.

Edmonton's Jordan Eberle and Matt Moulson of the Islanders are the other finalists. All three are first-time finalists. Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis has won the award the past two seasons.

Horsemachine“I think everyone knows no [defenseman] has won it since 1954,'' Campbell said Thursday. “I think that makes it even bigger if you get a chance to win it. That would be huge. Not many people can say they've done that in their career.''




June 17, 2012

OnFrozenPhone: Sneak Peek of Miami Heat Intro before Game 3 v Thunder

June 06, 2012

TIME TRAVEL BACK TO 2010: Dale Tallon Takes Over as Florida Panthers GM




TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards 

One of the first things Dale Tallon did when introduced as the new general manager of the Florida Panthers was thank the Chicago Blackhawks.

"Without them I wouldn't be here,'' he said, pausing for comedic effect. “In more ways than one.''

Had he not had the opportunity to run the Blackhawks for four seasons, he likely wouldn't have been a candidate to manage the Panthers. And had the Blackhawks not fired him last summer, he wouldn't have been available to be hired by the Panthers.

Perhaps the Panthers should be thanking their peers in Chicago for letting Tallon go. It's apparent the success-starved Panthers are happy to have Tallon in charge of righting the ship.

The Panthers haven't made the playoffs in an NHL record tying nine seasons and record-setting 10 years. The Blackhawks, a team built by Tallon, is currently playing in the Western Conference finals for the second straight year.

“When I found out Dale was available and interested, that's where I went and I never wavered from that,'' said alternate governor Bill Torrey, who led Florida's search for a new general manager the past two offseasons.

“Hiring Dale, I think, as in short a time as I think he can do it, we're going to have a hell of a lot more exciting days and games in this building in the month of May. It's been a while since we've had it, and I'm firmly convinced he can bring us back to that.''

Added managing partner Cliff Viner: “We promised a professional, well-run organization that we all can be proud of. We're making good on that promise today. He's a proven hockey leader who was genuinely excited to join our franchise.''

Tallon's first order of business as the Panthers new executive vice president and so-called 'hockey czar' is to fly to Germany to meet with head coach Pete DeBoer.

An assistant coach for Team Canada's entry in the World Championships there, DeBoer will indeed return for his third season behind the Florida bench. Tallon says he just wants to meet up with his coach to talk about the future of the Panthers.

DeBoer, who has two years left on the contract signed in 2008, has two assistant coaches with expiring contracts. Amateur scouting director Scott Luce's job also appears to be safe.

Tallon replaces Randy Sexton, who spent less than a year on the job. Sexton was the interim GM last summer after Jacques Martin left to coach the Montreal Canadiens. Torrey held a search for a new GM last summer, but with the team's ownership in flux, the decision was made to let Sexton take over the job fulltime on Oct. 2.

Sexton is said to be traveling back from the Memorial Cup in Canada. Sexton's contract is thought to be expiring this summer – general partner Stu Siegel refused to confirm that – although Sexton could stay with the franchise in some capacity.

Sexton is known to be a good salary cap analyst and an expert when it comes to the collective bargaining agreement and could return to his role as the assistant GM. Sexton is also very close to Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero and could possibly end up with the Penguins organization later this summer.

“We're going to evaluate everything and see what's best for both of us,'' said Tallon. “This is a great game and a tough business. I just went through this in Chicago and it's never easy. Randy is a class guy and a wonderful guy. I know him a little bit, and he's been first class every time I talked to him. We'll have good talks moving forward.''

Siegel said that Sexton was told in a meeting a few weeks ago that Torrey was resuming his search.

“We want to bring in the best people available,'' Siegel said. “We didn't want him to find this out through the grapevine.''

Sexton, however, had been going about his business as if the job would remain his. He said as recently as last Thursday that he felt there would be no change.

This is an important offseason for a franchise that had one of its worst seasons in recent memory. After finishing tied with Montreal in points for the eighth and final playoff spot in 2009 (the Panthers lost a tiebreaker), Florida imploded in 2009-10 and ended with the third-worst record in the entire league. For the first time in franchise history, the Panthers finished last in their division.

Yet that sad finish could be beneficial to the future. Sexton picked up two extra second round picks in the upcoming draft through trades and Florida holds the third overall pick. The Panthers have nine total picks – a number that could grow if Tallon decides to wheel and deal. Tallon was noncommittal to what the Panthers would do with the third pick.

Tallon also said each and every player would be evaluated but he's open to talk trade. Tallon says he would like to beef up the center position as well as find some more defense in the coming months. Tallon praised Dmitry Kulikov, Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton, David Booth and Tomas Vokoun.

“I watched a lot of games from Vero Beach and I came to a lot of games last year,'' Tallon said. “We're definitely in a better position than we were when we started in Chicago. There are some good assets here, some good young players here.

"We obviously have a few holes to fill to get to the next level. We just need to add the right people to create the right chemistry. You can't win without that. But we have a tremendous opportunity coming up with the draft. We're excited about that.''





STAYING SOUTH: Panthers Sign GM Dale Tallon to Extension

Tallon2BY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Twitter: @GeorgeRichards

As Dale Tallon enters his third summer running the Panthers, he will help lead the franchise through its third draft under his watch as well as its third foray into free agency with Tallon behind the wheel.

And it appears Tallon will continue to head Florida's hockey operations as general manager for a few more years – at the very least.

The Panthers announced Wednesday that Tallon had signed a multi-year contract extension with the team. Terms were not announced, although it is believed Tallon signed another three-year pact with the team.

Tallon signed on for three seasons in 2010. His current contract would have expired following next season.

“I'm elated, over the moon for this,'' said Tallon said. “I couldn't see myself working for anyone else. .-.-. I want to be here forever. I'm still a young man. I'm fit, willing and able. I like it here, I like Florida, I like Cliff Viner and I like working with this organization.

"We have a long way to go, but I'm excited about our future. I don't want to be any other place. This is a thrill. I'm proud as hell to be a Florida Panther.''

The Panthers were a franchise in flux when Tallon was signed in May 2010 to take over for Randy Sexton.

Tallon has brought some stability to the Florida front office as he became the eighth general manager since 2000 to head the Panthers when he left the Chicago Blackhawks to take the reins in Sunrise.

Tallon served as the GM in Chicago from 2005 until being demoted in 2009 after a number of restricted free agent contracts weren't submitted to the league in time. Although many felt Tallon was a scapegoat, Tallon was replaced as GM and given a role as a senior advisor.

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup not long after Tallon left for the Panthers and he was honored with not only a championship ring, but by having his name engraved on the Cup.

Tallon obviously hopes to create the same sort of championship magic in South Florida. The Panthers finished 14th in the Eastern Conference the year before Tallon arrived then were dead last in his initial campaign.

In Tallon's second season, however, Florida snapped an NHL-record 10-season postseason drought by winning the first division title in franchise history.

The Panthers took the eventual Eastern Conference champion Devils to seven games, the series decided by a single goal in double overtime. Florida's quick rise through the standings has given Tallon confidence things are definitely trending in the right direction.

“We gave [New Jersey] our best shot, were a goal away from moving on,'' Tallon said. “You don't know what would have happened in the next round. We don't deal in hypotheticals. The first round is the toughest round. We are happy but not satisfied. .-.-.

"This tells the league the Florida Panthers are in business. We're for real. We have a great franchise moving forward.''

Tallon has a number of issues to deal with, and said he has made contract offers to restricted free agent Kris Versteeg (coincidentally one of the players with the contract issue in Chicago) and backup goalie Scott Clemmensen.

Signing free agent defenseman Jason Garrison is also a priority, Tallon said, with an offer coming this week.

Tallon added that Florida would also like to talk to Mikael Samuelsson about returning as well.

“We're trying to take care of our guys, get Kris and Garrison signed,'' Tallon said. “We want to take care of the guys we have.''

Tallon is also gearing up for the draft in two weeks as the Panthers try to add to their stockpile of quality prospects.

Florida doesn't have a top three pick as it had in the past two drafts, but Tallon is confident the Panthers will get some good players. Florida's prospect system is considered by experts as the best in the league.

“This is a very proud day for me and for Dale,'' owner Cliff Viner said.

“It's a proud day for the whole organization. I think it was very important for us to give the contract extension to Dale for one very crucial reason: It's important for us to show our confidence in Dale so he have the certainty to execute his plan and our plan for long-term success. I think that's at the core for what's happening.''