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Analysis: Tallon's plan for Panthers paying off

Add Hudler, Purcell, Kindl in push for division title

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon spent almost six years preparing for what he did Saturday. It was time well spent, because Tallon's team is not only poised to be a contender in the Stanley Cup Playoffs now, it's set up to be good for many years.

Tallon bolstered the roster of his first-place team by acquiring forward Jiri Hudler from the Calgary Flames, forward Teddy Purcell from the Edmonton Oilers, and defenseman Jakub Kindl from the Detroit Red Wings in a three-hour span.

Tallon didn't purge anyone from his roster to make it happen. The Panthers gave up only draft picks to the Flames, Oilers and Red Wings, none a first-round pick and only one a second-round pick.

Hudler and Purcell are likely rentals for the Panthers; each can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. They should, however, slide easily into the lineup, with Hudler potentially on the second line and Purcell on the third.

Kindl is a depth defenseman who has been playing in the American Hockey League.

Tallon's ability to swing for the fences Saturday was born from a plan he put into motion as soon as he was hired on May 17, 2010. It's the same plan he used as Chicago Blackhawks general manager from 2005-09.

Video: Craig Conroy talks about trading Jiri Hudler

It's about drafting well, developing prospects, being patient, waiting, letting them come to you when they're ready, and acquiring veteran players along the way to forge the path for the young core on the rise.

Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford are examples of that in Chicago. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has built around the core that Tallon either acquired or helped develop to create a modern-day dynasty, with three Stanley Cup championships in the six seasons in Tallon's aftermath.

It's the only way to have sustained success in the NHL, and Tallon is doing it all over again in Florida. It's the reason he was able to get Hudler, Purcell and Kindl. It's the reason the Panthers are in first place in the Atlantic Division.

The build to Saturday started at the 2010 NHL Draft, where defenseman Erik Gudbranson and forwards Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden became Tallon's first three first-round picks with Florida. Defenseman Alec Petrovic was a second-round pick that year. The Panthers already had defenseman Dmitri Kulikov, the No. 14 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft.

That was a good starting point.

The 2011 NHL Draft was a hit for Tallon too. Not only did he select the 2013 Calder Trophy winner, forward Jonathan Huberdeau, with the No. 3 pick, he got forward Vincent Trocheck 61 picks later. Trocheck, who scored his 19th goal of the season Saturday, is turning into a third-round bargain.

Video: EDM@FLA: Purcell seals game with empty-net goal

In addition, Tallon traded with the Blackhawks to get defenseman Brian Campbell, his first veteran addition who had staying power. At that time, Campbell had five years remaining on a contract he signed with the Blackhawks when Tallon was their GM.

Sensing the prospects needed a window of time to develop, Tallon went veteran crazy in the summer of 2011 and built a team that was good enough to win the Southeast Division, but it wasn't built to last.

The Panthers dropped back and missed the playoffs in 2013. It might have been the best thing to happen to Tallon and the Panthers because it led to the selection of center Aleksander Barkov with the No. 2 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad came to the Panthers with the No. 1 pick in 2014, and won the Calder Trophy last season.

Every one of those draft picks is making a difference with the Panthers this season. For years, their prospect system was considered to be among the best, if not the best, in the NHL. These are those players.

In the meantime, Tallon acquired forwards Brandon Pirri and Reilly Smith in separate trades to slide in with the core he was developing. They are top-nine forwards for the Panthers.

Video: DET@TOR: Kindl skates past defense to score OT winner

Tallon infused experience around his core by acquiring goalie Roberto Luongo and right wing Jaromir Jagr in trades. He signed defenseman Willie Mitchell, goalie Al Montoya, and forwards Jussi Jokinen, Shawn Thornton, Dave Bolland and Derek MacKenzie as free agents.

Bolland hasn't worked out, but every other veteran player Tallon has acquired has played a role in this successful season.

Everything Tallon has done since his was hired has been calculated. His plan is coming to fruition. The proof is not just in the Panthers' record this season, but in the fact Tallon was willing to part with draft picks, valuable commodities in today's NHL, to acquire two rental forwards and a depth defenseman.

The Panthers are better today than they were yesterday, and they're built to last.

Isn't it great when a plan comes together?

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