Panthers General Partner Cliff Viner opening statement: It's a very proud day for me and I know it's a very proud day for Dale. It's a proud day for the whole organization. I think it was very very important for us to give the contract extension to Dale for one very crucial reason. I think it's important for us to show our confidence in Dale so he can be confident and he can have the certainty that he can execute his plan and our plan for long term success. I think that's really the core of what's happening today.
Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon opening statement: I'm elated. I'm overwhelmed about this. I can't think of any other person I'd rather with and for than Cliff Viner and his partners and Michael Yormark. They've been so generous and caring as far as what we have to do to have a successful franchise here and have a great run to win the Stanley Cup. I couldn't see myself working with anyone else and I'm very proud to be a Florida Panther today and I look forward to an illustrous future with Cliff, his partners and the Panthers and their fans.
Question: When you guys see the Devils in the finals, do you wonder what could have been?
Tallon: We don't deal in hypotheticals.
Viner: It just gives you some indication of what Dale has already accomplished in the plan up until now and what we should be able to achieve going forward.
Question: It also tells you how close it really was and the parity in the league and it an happen in a year or two, can't it?
Tallon: I agree. You've got to get in and once you get in you never know what will happen. If you get hot at the right time, a goalie gets hot, things go your way, you get a few bounces and away you go. The key is to have a good season and get into the playoffs and then anything can happen.
Question: There was never any question of you leaving any time soon but how does this make you feel knowing the contract is done and you can move forward?
Tallon: There was never any doubt. Cliff has just been so generous, so giving in allowing me to do what I need to do to make this franchise a viable franchise. There was never any doubt. Regardless of this, I was going to give my heart and soul to this franchise but now it just gives us security and the ability to go forward and not worry about that. We can do the right thing and get our jobs in order and work together for the common goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
Question: When you were first hired two years ago, did you have any idea at how long you wanted to stay?
Tallon: I want to be here forever. I'm still a young man. I'm fit. I'm willing and I'm able. I like it in Florida. I like Cliff Viner. I like working with him and I like working in this organization. We have a long way to go but I'm excited about our future. I couldn't think of being in any other place. This is a thrill and I'm proud as hell to be a Florida Panther.
Question: Talking about the plan that was alluded to, a lot of that started in Minnesota. Is there any sense of pressure to duplicate that?
Tallon: Our goal is to get better every day and our goal is to have another great draft. We don't have as many picks as we've had in the past but that's fine. We only have a certain number of contracts available. We're going to build through the draft, continue to do that. That's the number one priority and develop and mentor kids. In the next few years is going to be exciting for us because we're going to see some of these young kids that we drafted the last couple of years. 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 but we also look forward to this draft. The one thing that Cliff and I firmly believe in is that it's character and more character and that's what we're going to focus on. We're going to continue to stay on the plan, stay focused and stay on point and do what we need to do to make this a successful franchise for many years to come.
Question: What is the most pressing issue? Negotiating with Garry (Jason Garrison), maybe Kris (Versteeg) in a few weeks, or the draft? What's happening right now?
Tallon: We're trying to take care of our guys. We're trying to get Kris and Garry signed. That's what we're working on right now as we speak and take care of the guys we have and then focus on the draft and then focus on free agency. That's basically the steps that are in place moving forward. Once we get through free agency, we'll have our developmental camp to see how the kids have developed and what their futures hold and where they might fit in our plans moving forward next year.
Question: What kind of priority are guys like Scott Clemmensen and Mikael Samuelsson? They both had pretty good years for you guys.
Tallon: We like the makeup of our team. We like the people and the character that they have and those are two character guys that really played well for us. We are talking to them and we would like to get something done that makes sense for us moving forward.
Question: How are things going with Kris and Garry. I know Garrison going July 1st.
Tallon: We made an offer to Versteeg and we're in the process of doing the same thing with Garrison this week and I'm very confident that we'll get something done. We made an offer to Clemmensen and we're going to talk to Samuelsson this week as well and see what their plans are and what they want to do.
Question: After the season you guys had, you've raised the bar considerably with doing it so quickly. Does it something that concerns you at all?
Tallon: We're excited with what we did but we're not satisfied. We'll move forward and get better. We saw how exciting it was at the end and in the playoffs and we want to maintain that and go deeper and further in the playoffs. That's our goal.
Question: Any of the prospects that had to be signed, have they been signed? I know there was a cut off date recently.
Tallon: No we're satisfied with everything we've done as far as our bonified offers to our young players that we wanted to keep in the organization. Moving forward it's a matter of making qualifying offers to our guys that need them on the team currently and in the American League as well. That's our next focus and we'll get that done in the next week.
Question: Can you give a few names of the prospects you signed?
Tallon: We signed (Drew) Shore and he's playing in San Antonio. (Alex) Petrovic is signed and has played in San Antonio. (Quinton) Howden is signed and played in San Antonio. (John) McFarland is signed and is recovering from shoulder surgery. We've got a good crop of signed (players) and are ready to go and we got a bunch that are still in college. We're satisfied with where they're at and where their development scale is at this time.
Question: When you see what New Jersey is doing right now, is that almost motivation to remind you maybe you guys were a bounce or two away from maybe making a real deep run or can you not really look at it in those terms?
Tallon: We gave it our best shot and we were a goal away from moving on. Who's to say what would happen in the next series. We don't deal in hypotheticals. We had a good year. We're very positive going into the off-season but we're not satisfied. You get into the playoffs and anything can happen. You win the first round which is always the hardest round, who knows what may happen. With LA and New Jersey in there and them being low seeds into the finals, that's what is so great about our game. There's so much parity. We're just excited about what we've accomplished but not satisfied with it.
Question: The conversation about this franchise for years has been about when is the drought going to end and when are you going to get in. Now that is over with, how much fun do you think it will be for the guys in September when this thing starts back up again to actually not have to deal with that burden of expectations?
Tallon: I think we have a great core here and a great nucleus of character people that really care. They weren't excited about losing Game 7. Believe me, our exit meetings were very fruitful but a lot of disappointment in the locker room. Guys weren't satisfied losing in Game 7 in double overtime. They wanted to go farther in the playoffs. They wanted to win and that's motivation in itself to have a great off-season. It also tells the league that the Florida Panthers mean business and for real and are really motivated with Cliff and his staff and everyone to do the right things to have a good franchise moving forward.