A day after losing leading scorers Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights, Florida general manager Dale Tallon said the Panthers will aggressive in free agency come July 1.
And, with the expansion draft complete, Tallon said he and the agent for Jaromir Jagr will resume talks.
“I’m looking forward to talking to him,” Tallon said of Petr Svoboda.
Marchessault led Florida with 30 goals last season and Smith scored 40 in two seasons with the Panthers.
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On Wednesday, Vegas took Marchessault off Florida’s unprotected list and gave up a fourth round pick to take Smith and his $25 million contract off Tallon’s hands.
“The trade was to give us some flexibility in the salary cap,” said Tallon, whose team now has approximately $20 million with free agents and restricted free agents Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic still to sign.
“We have some flexibility long term. Our goal is to win multiple championships and these moves we’re making are looking to the present but also to the future.
“We will be aggressive moving forward in free agency. There’s a plan in place and we’re going to stick to it.
“This is not, necessarily, the team we will have in three months. We have plans in place to make this team exciting.”
As far as spending money, Tallon said he had the support of owner Vinnie Viola to “as much as we need to make our team a better team ... to do what we need to do to win.”
Tallon was rumored to have tried to make a deal with Vegas to keep Marchessault and in the end, offered up an extra player in Smith since it appeared the Golden Knights were going to take the speedy center anyway.
Marchessault signed a two-year deal for only $750,000 per season last July and will be a free agent after this coming season.
Tallon said he and Marchessault’s agent had “just started talking” about a possible extension although “there were no real discussions.”
In the expansion draft, Florida left extra forwards exposed to save an additional defenseman. Jason Demers was exposed but not claimed.
“You win championships with defense first,” Tallon said in explanation of his decision to save eight skaters (with four defensemen) instead of 10.
“We like goal scoring, we’re committed to that as well. We felt confident we needed to continue building our back end, filling up the middle and be stronger defensively and that will lead to more offense.”
As far as in-house offense, Florida already signed Finnish forward Henrik Haapala who scored 60 points off 15 goals in the Finnish Elite League with Sasha Barkov’s hometown Tappara squad.
Haapala and Barjkov played on the same line together before Barkov joined the Panthers.
Jared McCann was acquired from Vancouver in the Erik Gudbranson deal last season and started the season the Panthers. He’s expected to compete for a job with Florida in training camp.
Florida also signed Russian forward Maxim Mamin from the KHL.
Aside from McCann, the Panthers also have Jayce Hawryluk coming up as well as Kyle Rau among others.
Florida could also look at bringing back free agent Thomas Vanek who was acquired at the trade deadline last year when the Panthers still had a chance at the playoffs.
“We’re not afraid to play young players,” Tallon said. “They’ll get a shot in training camp to make our team. The quicker they get into the battle, the better they will be.”
▪ Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Pronger has joined the front office as a senior advisor to Tallon.
Pronger, who was rumored to be headed to the Panthers following the lockout-canceled 2004-05 season, played 1,167 games for Hartford, St. Louis, Edmonton, Anaheim and Philadelphia before retiring in 2012.
The 42-year-old had been working in the NHL’s player safety office.
St. Louis traded Pronger to Edmonton following the 2005 draft held in Ottawa after rumors circulated then-Florida GM Mike Keenan was very excited to reunite with his former star defenseman.
Pronger spent one season with the Oilers (they lost to Carolina in the Finals that year) before being traded to Anaheim where he won the Stanley Cup along with former Florida forward — and current front office employee — Shawn Thornton.
Bryan McCabe, Florida’s former captain, was promoted to director of player personnel after spending five years in player development.
“We’re excited, thrilled and proud to add a Stanley Cup champion to the Florida Panthers family,” Tallon said. “I’m excited to be able to work with a great player and a better person.”
▪ Tallon said new assistant coaches for new head coach Bob Boughner could be announced Friday. Boughner was hired as the 15th coach in Florida history earlier this month.
▪ Tallon said he thought the trade action would be busy on Thursday and Friday leading into the NHL entry draft now that the expansion work is done.
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
▪ Friday: First round of the NHL Draft (10th overall); United Center, Chicago; 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
▪ Saturday: Second-seventh rounds of the NHL Draft (four picks); United Center, Chicago; 10 a.m. (NHLNet)
▪ June 27-30: Development camp, Coral Springs IceDen
▪ June 29: Summer Summit at BB&T Center with new coach Bob Boughner
▪ July 1: Free agency begins