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Pirri's potential piqued interest of Panthers' Tallon

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Almost five years later, Dale Tallon remains a fan of Brandon Pirri.

In his last year as general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, Tallon selected Pirri in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft. Sunday, he acquired him for the Florida Panthers in a trade for a 2014 third-round pick and a 2016 fifth-round selection.

Pirri may not have panned out in Chicago, but Tallon likes the 22-year-old center's upside.

"I think it's a great move for our long-term future," Tallon said. "We're adding some tremendous knowledge and skill. [Our] hockey IQ has increased dramatically with this acquisition."

Brandon Pirri
Center - FLA
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 11
SOG: 34 | +/-: 6
Pirri joined the Panthers in Boston and likely will make his Florida debut Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins.

Tallon said the trade strengthened the Panthers' depth chart at center, which includes rookies Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

"We'll see how it fits," Tallon said. "Obviously some of our centers might have to learn to play the wing, but it's easier to do that than go the opposite way, go from wing to center."

After appearing in seven games for the Blackhawks the past three seasons, Pirri played in 28 games for Chicago this season with six goals and five assists.

At the time of the trade, Pirri was playing for the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

Pirri will be reunited in Florida with former Rockford teammates forward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen, who was Chicago's first-round pick in 2009. Hayes and Olsen joined the Panthers in mid-November in the trade that sent right wing Kris Versteeg to the Blackhawks.

"There's some familiarity there," said Pirri, who worked at the morning skate Tuesday on a line with Hayes and 2013 Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau. "It's just an exciting place to be right now."

More than anything, the trade should give Pirri a full-time opportunity in the NHL.

After he led the AHL in scoring last season with 75 points in 76 games, Pirri was expected to be Chicago's second-line center this season. But after sustaining an injury, he was sent down to the AHL before being recalled in October.

Pirri had two stints with the Blackhawks this season before being sent to Rockford Feb. 6.

"Chicago is obviously very deep and it's a tough lineup to crack," Pirri said. "Here there's a lot of youth and skill. It seems like there's a lot of depth down the middle.

"It's a young group in here. They're on the right track to building something good. That's what I was waiting for, an opportunity to be part of something. Talking to Dale last night, it was exciting to be here. He says we're heading in the right direction, so it's very exciting."

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