Aug 10: The Panthers have officially parted ways with Tallon, announcing that a search for their next GM has begun. In a short statement, owner Vinnie Viola explained what Tallon has meant for the club and why they were now moving on:
For the last decade, Dale raised the team’s profile, attracted key players to South Florida and brought character and class to our franchise. When we purchased the Panthers in 2013, we did so with a singular goal–to win a Stanley Cup. We have not seen our efforts come to fruition. We will now begin an organizational search for the next general manager.
Aug 7: The Florida Panthers were very unlikely to have made the playoffs this season under the standard format and few gave them a chance of an upset over the stout defense of the New York Islanders in the qualifying round. Yet, the organization is still not taking their elimination earlier today lightly. Fox Sports’ Andy Strickland reports that the hammer is set to drop on long-time executive Dale Tallon. The team is expected to move on from their GM shortly.
Tallon, hired as GM in Florida in 2010, had previously served in the same role with the Chicago Blackhawks and had a hand in the team’s Stanley Cup win the season prior to his departure. Tallon served as GM for the Panthers until 2016, when he was elevated to President of Hockey Operations. He then resumed GM duties as well in 2018. Having been around for a decade, Tallon’s influence can be found in every corner of the roster, even in long-time homegrown stars Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad, who were all drafted by Tallon.
However, Tallon’s mistakes have also made a lasting impression on the roster. This past off-season in particular, Tallon gambled with the Panthers’ salary cap space, spending big on goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, forward Brett Connolly, and defenseman Anton Stralman. It is hard to argue that any of the three have lived up to expectations in yet another disappointing season for the franchise, which has not won a playoff series since 1996. Yet, they are all multi-year deals and will continue to impact the team for seasons still to come. With little cap space heading into this off-season, top scorers like Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov could prove difficult to re-sign and the club could take another step backward next season. Other lasting mistakes have included a botched Expansion Draft strategy that saw the team give away Reilly Smith in order to ensure Jonathan Marchessault was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights, only to see both become reliable top-six forwards, not getting enough for forward Vincent Trocheck from the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline this year, and simply flip-flopping on their organizational strategy too frequently.
In finding Tallon’s replacement, the Panthers need to find someone with a long-term outlook on the position and a concrete plan on how they will rebuild the club. Having made just three playoff appearances in the past ten years, Florida fans will likely be happy to miss the postseason for another year or two if it means sustained success down the road. That could start with some lottery luck in the form of the No. 1 overall pick and Alexis Lafreniere. Maximizing their four picks in the first three rounds one way or another will also be imperative for the new GM in his first draft. Finding a way to shed some dead weight salary and to add much-needed depth at all positions will also be key.
Not all of Tallon’s tenure in Florida has been bad – including the aforementioned homegrown standouts and a pair of division titles – but at the end of the day the Panthers have had no postseason success and they have their work cut out for them to change that any time soon. Tallon’s replacement will have plenty of work to do to undo some of the GM’s mistakes and to reverse the curse on the Florida franchise.