One of the more interesting offseasons this year has to be the work that general manager Dale Tallon has done with the Florida Panthers. For a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 1999-00, Tallon made a lot of acquisitions in hopes of getting the team there for the first time in over a decade.
Perhaps Tallon overpaid for some of his free agents, but for a team like Florida that’s sometime the only way to get players on your roster. Tomas Fleischmann and his 68 career NHL goals somehow warranted $4.5 million a season for the next four years. Tallon will need him to return to his 2009-10 form where he scored 51 points for that contract to be worth it. Scottie Upshall was brought in at $3.5 million for the next four years, and will look to improve on the 22 goals he scored last season. The trade with Philadelphia for Kris Versteeg gives the Panthers another legitimate scoring threat to add alongside Stephen Weiss and David Booth. The Panthers have the ability to be a hockey club with some decent forward depth and goal scoring potential throughout the lineup. Tomas Kopecky will be a part of that depth as well, coming over from the Chicago Blackhawks in the offseason. No one will forget the playoff run Sean Bergenheim had with the Lightning, and Florida is hoping that was just the beginning. Marcel Goc, Matt Bradley, and Ryan Carter are role players that were also added to help improve the club.
No one knows how new head coach Kevin Dineen will fare in his first season as an NHL head coach, but the Panthers can only hope it’s better than his recent predecessors. Terry Murray was the last Panthers coach to lead the club to the playoffs, and since then four different coaches have led the way. None of those coaches laste more than three seasons.
The loss of Tomas Vokoun hurts the Panthers in net. Vokoun has been one of the more underrated goaltenders in the league playing in the obscurity of south Florida. Now the Panthers will look to veteran Jose Theodore, a player who has never lived up to his expectations, and career backup Scott Clemmensen. The goaltending could be the undoing for the Panthers this season, unless a bonafide No. 1 emerges from those two.
The odds of the Panthers making the playoffs this season are again slim, but they definitely appear to be better than they have been in recent years. If Florida can play solid team defense and find a reliable goaltender, they have enough components to win games consistently. Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear that management in the Panthers organization is committed to trying anything to win.