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Tallon Expects 'Real Positive Day' for Panthers when Free Agency Opens

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop /

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Twas' the night before Christmas.

Wait, no, it's actually June… but it kind of feels like Christmas, doesn't it?

With less than 24 hours to go until the NHL's free agent signing period officially begins at 12 p.m. ET on July 1, Florida Panthers President of Hockey Operations & General Manger Dale Tallon is feeling confident that the team is in a "good position" to make some improvements.

"We're going to be very successful moving forward," Tallon confidently told reporters at the Panthers IceDen following Sunday's development camp-closing scrimmage. "I like our plan. I think it's going to be a real positive day for us tomorrow."

In pitching free agents, Tallon certainly has a lot of positives to pull from.

First, the location is obviously a huge perk, so let's skip right to what the team has to offer.

Led by a pair of 90-point seasons from Aleksander Barkov (96) and Jonathan Huberdeau (92), the Panthers completed the 2018-19 campaign with a franchise record 265 goals. For the first time ever, they had five players register at least 20 goals, including a trio of 30-goal scorers.

Florida also owned the league's ninth-ranked offense (3.22 goals per game) and second-ranked power play (26.8). Four different players posted at least 30 power-play points, while three tallied at least 10 goals on the man advantage, with both of those marks setting new franchise records.

Then, of course, there's the man they simply call "Coach Q."

Hired in April to lead the Panthers back to the promised land, Joel Quenneville will begin his first season behind the bench in Florida in 2019-20, already boasting the second-most wins (890) in NHL history. In 20 full seasons as an NHL head coach, he's qualified for the playoffs 18 times.

"He's won a lot of Stanley Cups and is a really successful coach," Barkov said after Quenneville's introductory press conference at BB&T Center. "I'm pretty sure everybody's going to like him and respect him. We're going to be really good… He definitely knows what to do."

With this solid core already in place, Quenneville said after his hiring that he believes Florida already possesses many of the "same ingredients" found in the dynasty he coached in Chicago. In parts of 10 seasons with the Blackhawks, he won three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013 and 2015).

Tallon said "having the coach and having our core players" will be key in free agency.

"Everyone that we've talked to, they really like the direction we're headed, with the commitment from [Panthers owner] Vinnie Viola and the fact that he wants to be a cap team, with bringing Joel in, and with the players that we have in our system," Tallon said. "We have a lot of great players as well that are coming. We've got a great nucleus… Everyone that we've spoken with that we want to come here are really impressed with what we're doing and the team that we have."

While Tallon has previously talked about the club's desire to "hit home runs" in free agency, he also noted that it's important to use this time to add depth to the roster with quality role-players.

"It takes 23 to win," Tallon said. "It takes 50, actually. Fifty contracts. You need good call-ups, a good minor-league system. We have great coaching and a great system down there [in AHL Springfield]. We're starting to get really deep as far as our young players go, as evidenced by today. I like what we have coming down the pipe. It's all positive for the Florida Panthers."

So who's packing their bags for Broward County? Stay tuned throughout Monday to find out!

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