SUNRISE, Fla. -- In less than two weeks, Dale Tallon is scheduled to try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open, an event he played in two years ago.
But the talented golfer isn't spending any time on the links these days. He was at the NHL Scouting Combine last week, is busy now trying to re-sign some of the Florida Panthers' most significant free agents, and the NHL Draft isn't far away.
"It's a hobby for me now," Tallon said of his golfing. "I'll see what happens. If I'm able to do it, I'll try. If not, I'll go on and focus on the draft. It's the lowest priority for me."
The highest priority is the Florida Panthers, whom Tallon has turned from downtrodden to up-and-coming since taking over as general manager in May 2010.
But there's more work to be done, and Tallon will continue to do that work for a while longer now that he has signed a multi-year extension with the Panthers.
Florida general partner Cliff Viner announced the extension on Wednesday, with terms of the deal not released. Tallon had one year left on his contract.
"There was never any doubt that regardless of this I was going to give my heart and soul to this franchise," Tallon said. "But now it just gives us security and the ability to go forward and not worry about that, just do the right thing and do our jobs and work together toward the common goal of winning a Stanley Cup."
The Panthers just completed a memorable 2011-12 season, capturing the first division title in franchise history and ending a 12-year playoff drought in the process.
Tallon, who brought in almost a dozen veteran newcomers last summer after hiring Kevin Dineen as coach, was recognized for his efforts by being named a finalist for the NHL GM of the Year Award, which will be presented at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20.
"We are very pleased to have agreed to a contract extension with Dale," Viner said. "Over the last two years, he has worked tirelessly to re-position our team and hockey operations department. Our team's success can be attributed directly to Dale's passion, leadership and the motivation that he has instilled in our organization."
Tallon, though, is hoping that was just the beginning, as he points to a large group of high-end prospects who will join the Panthers in upcoming years.
"I think we're in great shape," Tallon said. "Our goal is to get better every day. Our goal is to have another great draft, though we don't have as many picks as we've had in the past. We're going to build through the draft, continue to do that. That's the No. 1 priority -- to develop and mentor kids.
"And the next few years, it's going to be exciting for us, because we're going to see some of these young kids we've drafted the last couple of years and our fans are going to be able to see them and get to know them and watch their progress here moving forward. It's an exciting time for our franchise based on what we've done in the draft the last couple of years"
Before the 2012 draft arrives, though, Tallon is hoping to re-sign some of his free agents, such as defenseman Jason Garrison, forwards Kris Versteeg and Mikael Samuelsson, and goalie Scott Clemmensen.
Tallon said offers already have been made to Versteeg and Clemmensen, and offers will be made soon to Garrison and Samuelsson.
The Panthers' season ended with a heartbreaking double-overtime loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against a New Jersey team that advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, but Tallon refuses to wonder what might have happened had the Panthers gotten the last score against the Devils.
Tallon also is aware that his team, for the first time in more than a decade, will be dealing with increased expectations next season.
He's looking forward to it.
"We have a great core here and a great nucleus of character people that really care," Tallon said. "They weren't excited about losing in Game 7, believe me. Our exit meetings were very fruitful, but a lot of disappointment in that locker room. Guys weren't satisfied losing in Game 7 in double overtime. They want to go farther in the playoffs, they want to win, and that's motivation in itself to have a great offseason. It also tells the league that the Florida Panthers are in business. We're for real. We're really motivated with Cliff and his staff and all of us to do the right things to have a great franchise moving forward."
Now, the Panthers have made sure they'll be moving forward with Tallon.
"I want to be here forever," he said. "I'm still a young man. I'm fit. I'm willing. I'm able. And like it in Florida. I like the Panthers. I like Cliff Viner. I like working with him and I like working in this organization. We've got a long way to go, but I'm excited about our future and I couldn't think of being any other place. So this is a thrill. I'm proud as hell to be a Florida Panther."