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Panthers GM Tallon Says He'll Listen To All Offers

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
NEWARK, N.J. -- If you're a general manager interested in acquiring any player in the Florida Panthers organization, don't hesitate to call because GM Dale Tallon is willing to listen.

Tallon, who figures to be a busy man between now and the Feb. 28 trade deadline, told Friday that no Panther is untouchable -- not even prized goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom.

"It depends on the deal, but I doubt that's going to happen," Tallon said of Markstrom.

He's probably right on that one. Tallon would have to be blown away by an offer to consider trading Markstrom, who is considered the Panthers' cornerstone goalie of the future, but he'll listen anyway.

"Yeah, why not?" Tallon said. "This team hasn't done anything in 10 years, so why wouldn't I? It's not like we're a championship team. We've got to get better in every area."

It's good that the deadline isn't until the end of the month because Tallon isn't ready to pull the chute on this season just yet. The Panthers moved into 10th place in the Eastern Conference with Friday's 4-3 overtime win at Prudential Center. They're five points behind the struggling eighth-place Atlanta Thrashers and four points behind the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes.

This season is not dead, not by any means.

However, it seems like the Panthers are in this same position every single season -- right on the edge of the playoff race until mid- to late-March. In the past they've remained patient in hopes that they can break through, but they haven't made the playoffs since 2000.

This season could be different because Tallon wants to build a long-term winner through the draft like he did with Chicago. He might be able to acquire some extra picks if he ships off a few of his own chips this month.

It'll be up to the Panthers to convince him otherwise.

"The next two weeks will tell whether we're staying put, buying or selling," Tallon said. "We've got five straight at home coming up, we're a little bit banged up, but we're still in the hunt and we'll see what happens. That will fall into play, but we still have a strategy and a blueprint that we're going to stick to that. If the right opportunity comes along than we'll seriously have to look at it.

"We'll be active."

He says that with an excited tone in his voice. Tallon loves the position he's in now because just like last June's draft, this month's trade deadline and the upcoming June Entry Draft in Minnesota are additional opportunities for him to put his stamp on this franchise.

"I think a lot of good things are going to happen for our franchise," Tallon said. "A lot of good things have happened in seven or eight months since we started and everybody is optimistic about our future, everybody is on board, singing out of the same hymn-book. It's good to see we're going to have some consistency and some structure here to achieve the goal."

Tallon scored huge points at the draft in Los Angeles last June by making some shrewd trades to wind up with three first-round picks and 10 of the first 99 selections. He quickly noted that the Panthers in this year's draft already have one first-round pick, two second-round picks and two third-rounders.

He's obviously planning to acquire more. He could do some of that this month.

The Panthers have seven players in the final year of their contracts, including goalie Tomas Vokoun and captain Bryan McCabe, who is on injured reserve with a broken jaw. Both have a no-movement clause, but would be able to help contending teams.

So, too, would veterans Cory Stillman, Radek Dvorak, Christopher Higgins, Marty Reasoner and Darcy Hordichuk.

"We're having good talks," Tallon said. "It's starting to heat up. We're optimistic and excited."

What Tallon chooses to do with Vokoun will be most interesting. Vokoun told on Friday that he has not been asked to waive his no-movement clause, nor has he been approached about a contract extension -- but he'd be open to talking about anything.

"Tomas has a great attitude," Tallon said. "We've had great talks. I'm pretty sure he wants to stay here to see us move forward. He's suffered a lot, played hard and he'd like to get some rewards moving down the line. I'll aim to please."

No matter what he does with Vokoun, goaltending is the least of his concerns right now with Markstrom on the come. Even the Panthers' blue line is looking good with youngsters like Keaton Ellerby (22 years old) and Dmitry Kulikov (20) looking like a potential franchise pairing for years to come.

"A lot of good things have happened in seven or eight months since we started and everybody is optimistic about our future, everybody is on board, singing out of the same hymn-book. It's good to see we're going to have some consistency and some structure here to achieve the goal." -- Dale Tallon

Erik Gudbranson, the No. 3 pick in last June's draft, is the top defenseman in the system and figures to be in South Florida next season.

"We'd look to add some good speed and skill to our roster moving forward in the next couple of years," Tallon said. "We need more skill to play the game I want to play, the puck possession, high speed, up tempo, offensive game."

He has the assets right now that could net him some future gains in those areas. Now it's a question of how, when or if he plans to use them.

"It's a lot easier to turn a franchise around in a hurry when you're picking lottery picks than when you're picking 14th," Tallon said. "Having said that, you can't take the fire and edge out of a group that, to me, has given its all every night. We've had 30 one-goal games. If we would have had a little bit of luck here and there we'd be in a different position, but that's just the way it is. Obviously when you know you're selling it's easier to get involved and get it done quicker."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Author: Dan Rosen | Senior Writer

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