Tallon's new role with Panthers involves fewer contracts, more scouting

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2013, file photo, Dale Tallon, the Florida Panthers' executive vice president and general manager, listens during an NHL hockey press conference in Sunrise, Fla. Much of the groundwork for Chicago's run as the NHL's dominant team, three Cups in six years, in challenging salary-cap times no less, was laid by Tallon when he was the Blackhawks' general manager. He's tried to mimic the same philosophy as Florida's GM, building through the draft, adding free agents when the time is right and swinging smart deals when opportunities knock. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)

Former Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said he's looking forward to working on fewer player contracts.

He’s known as having some of the better scout's eyes in the league and his new role of President of Hockey Operations, which the team announced Monday, will enable him to focus more on his strength.

“I wasn’t a big fan of doing contracts and you do what you have to do. Now that we have a great staff with Tom (Rowe) and Eric (Joyce) and Steve (Werier) and all of us together, I can go and do what I think I do best and that’s scout and evaluate talent and mentor our young guys and help develop them and that’s basically what I like to do,” Tallon said on a conference call with reporters. “I like going to rinks, I like freezing my rear end off in these rinks and that’s what I enjoy most about this job, so that’s great.”

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The Panthers made this shift of structure official Monday with Rowe taking over the general manager’s role and Joyce and Werier being named assistant GMs. The Miami Herald reported the impending shakeup over a week ago.

Sunrise Sports and Entertainment executive chairman Peter Luukko said this just formalizes the way the Panthers have operated for some time and isn't a wholesale change. Tallon was hired as Panthers’ general manager in May of 2010 after a successful stint with the Chicago Blackhawks where he drafted many of the core pieces that led to their championship run of success.

“It’s very much a collaborative effort here,” Luukko said. “As we all know in a hard cap world there are a lot of decisions that go into whether you acquire a player or retain a player or trade a player so as a group we work together on the aspects of the cap, the type of talent that we’re looking at and then the decision with what we do in our hockey ops department.”

Luukko touted the structure of the Toronto Maple Leafs, with Brendan Shanahan as team president and Lou Lamoriello as general manager, as well as the Philadelphia Flyers with Paul Holmgren as president and Ron Hextall as GM, as guides for Florida’s system.

“From our standpoint our organization is evolving,” Luukko said. “We’ve had some success and we want to continue that success to put together a first-class organization.”

But as for final decisions, Luukko said they still rest with Tallon.

“At the end of the day if there’s a coin clip, Dale will make that flip,” Luukko said.

Tallon has struggled with some contracts in his GM career, most recently giving forward Dave Bolland a five-year $27.5 million deal in the summer of 2014. Bolland has scored just seven goals in two years with the Panthers.

Also an issue with qualifying offers to Chicago restricted free agents in 2009 cost the organization several million dollars as they scrambled to re-sign core players so they didn't hit the open market as unrestricted free agents. This also help cost Tallon his job with the Blackhawks.

When asked if this is a move to add a more analytical approach to the front office – Werier ran the team’s analytics department and Joyce is considered more of an analytical mind – Rowe said he saw it as an evaluation tool and not much else.

“We think it’s an important component but it’s not the only component. That’s where Eric Joyce comes into play. Eric is a real bright guy, which is the analytics side of things and stats. But it’s only one component that we’re using,” Rowe said. “It’s supplemental information that we think is important. Dale believes in it and I believe in it and like I said when you’re making decisions in the NHL today, you’re talking about an awful lot of money. If it helps you limit your mistakes, that’s what we’re going to be using it for.”

Rowe was hired to coach Florida’s AHL affiliate for the 2013-14 season. Before that he was the head coach of the Albany River Rats and Lowell Lock Monsters from 2004-05 through 2007-08. He then was an assistant coach with the Carolina Hurricanes from 2008-09 through 2010-11. He came to the Panthers after a stint in the KHL with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv.

On Jan. 1, the Panthers announced a three-year extension for Tallon and also said Rowe would move from behind the AHL bench to the Florida front office as the team’s associate GM.

“I remember Tom as a player as a hard-nosed, hardworking winger,” Tallon said. “He was a real pro coaching with Jim Rutherford and I got great insight from Jimmy. He was available, fortunately for us after a stint in Russia and I just like his professionalism and hard work. He’s old school in some ways but he’s contemporary in other ways.”

The Panthers have a busy offseason upcoming. Forward Vincent Trocheck is a pending restricted free agent, coming off a season where he scored 25 goals in 76 games. He just completed his entry-level deal.

Also, franchise defenseman Aaron Ekblad (entry-level contract) and scorer Jonathan Huberdeau ($3.25 million salary cap hit) will be restricted free agents next summer. It’s believed the Panthers want to lock up the two core pieces sooner rather than later.

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