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Panthers agree to extension with coach Gallant

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers have long talked about wanting to establish some stability; the first step in that direction was a recent arena financing deal. They’ve followed that with contract extensions for general manager Dale Tallon and coach Gerard Gallant.

Gallant agreed to a two-year extension Saturday, one day after Tallon got a three-year extension. The deals will have Gallant and Tallon working together through the 2018-19 season.

"What these moves do, extending Dale and extending Gerard, along with the deal we just cut with [Broward County], really give us the stability that the franchise needs to succeed, both in the business side as well as the hockey side," executive chairman Peter Luukko said Saturday.

Gallant agreed to a two-year extension of a contract that was due to expire after next season.

The Panthers hired the 52-year-old native of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, on June 21, 2014. During his first season, the Panthers were the most improved team in the NHL. They went 38-29-15 for 91 points, a 25-point improvement from the previous season.

"It's great,"???Gallant said. "I was a little surprised a couple of days ago when they mentioned it to me. When you've got 18 months left and they ask if you want an extension, they treated me really loyally and I'm very happy. Things have gone very well here lately and we're having fun. The last month and a half has been good for this organization."

The Panthers took a franchise-record-tying seven-game winning streak into their game against the New York Rangers on Saturday; a victory would move them back into first place in the Atlantic Division.

"Obviously because of the excitement of what's been going on and the fact that the team is doing well, we wanted to have the announcement,"???partner and alternate governor Doug Cifu said. "But [owner]???Vinnie [Viola]???and I have been talking with Peter and Dale and others for months about the direction of this organization. Vinnie and I don't make judgments based on winning streaks, or losing streaks, for that matter. It's really about the consistency and stability."

Gallant spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens (2012-14); they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each season and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2014. Montreal was 75-42-13 in Gallant's two seasons, including its first 100-point season since 2007-08.

Gallant spent three seasons (2009-12) as coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. During that time, he compiled a 159-34-9 record and led the Sea Dogs to three first-place finishes, three league final appearances, two QMJHL championships (2011, 2012) and one Memorial Cup (2011). Gallant also was named the QMJHL and Canadian Hockey League Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2011.

Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau played all three years under Gallant and served as captain of the Sea Dogs during the 2011-12 season.

Gallant coached the Columbus Blue Jackets for parts of three seasons (2003-04, 2005-07) after serving as an assistant with the Blue Jackets from 2000-03. He had a 56-76-4-6 record in 142 games.

"The first opportunity I got, was I ready????I think I was,"???Gallant said. "But some people would say no. But going back to junior was a big thing for me, getting a lot of confidence. We had an unbelievable team for three years.

"The biggest thing for a coach now is you make your decisions and you're confident with your decisions. The first time around you're a young head coach, a rookie head coach, and you're not quite sure. You're always second-guessing yourself. Now you just make your decision and you feel comfortable with making your decisions."

Tallon, who was hired by the Panthers as GM???in May 2010, was in the last year of his contract before getting a three-year extension. The 65-year-old native of Noranda, Quebec, helped assemble a Stanley Cup winner during his time as GM???of the Chicago Blackhawks and has followed the same draft-and-develop blueprint with the Panthers.

The Panthers also reworked the operating agreement of BB&T Center and will receive $86 million in public funds through 2028, a deal approved Dec. 8.

"I'm not getting any younger and I want to win multiple Cups, so let's get it done now,"?????????Tallon said. "For two years, I've been through a few different regimes and now we've got stability thanks to Vinnie and Doug. To be included here for the next three years … I'm not as old as I look. I feel really good and I feel young and I'm ready to kick some you-know-what.

"I'm excited about this opportunity. I don't want to be here anywhere else. I love it here. We've got great kids. We've put a lot of hard work into drafting and mentoring these kids. We're not anywhere near where we're going to be yet. We've got a great group of young kids coming as well, so it's all good. It's very exciting. I want to make sure to finish the job properly."

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