Florida Panthers

After reeling in controversial scorer, Panthers enter NHL Draft with open minds

After landing a pretty big fish this week, Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon isn’t quite ready to turn the boat around and head back to port.

Heading into the NHL Draft at American Airlines Center, which gets underway with the first round Friday night at 7:30, Tallon said he’s going to keep his line in the water in the hopes of adding to the Panthers’ mix.

“You go deep sea fishing and you throw the bait out there you just don’t know when it’s going to hit,” Tallon said Thursday. “When it hits, you better be ready.”

The Panthers hold the 15th, 34th (in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes), 184th, 201st and 207th picks. They received that last pick from the San Jose Sharks in the deal that landed scoring wing Mike Hoffman on Tuesday in exchange for a package of draft picks. The Panthers sent the Sharks a second-round pick in 2019 and fourth- and fifth-round picks this weekend.

Tallon said he is open to the idea of making a deal on the draft floor, most likely to move down in the draft and add another pick in the process.

“We’ve identified a group of players we really like and if they’re all gone, we’ll pout and we’ll move on. There are a lot of options. We can go back and pick up another pick, another asset to pick a similar player maybe five or six spots back or whatever,” he said.

“We’re excited. It’s a good position to be in. We also have [pick No.] 34 so we’re going to get two really good players or three good players.”

The Panthers are likely looking at a forward at pick No. 15 with Russian left wing Grigori Denisenko and right wing Vitali Kravtsov projected as mid first-round picks along with Finnish center Rasmus Kupari and Canadian right wing Serron Noel.

After acquiring Hoffman, a potential 30-goal scorer, Tallon said he’s not feeling any urgency to make a deal.

“I like our situation a lot,” he said. “We don’t want to disrupt our core. We’ve made our trade and we’ve added a real valuable piece to our core. We’re a young team and all our core guys are locked up for term, and it’s a good positive thing for us. We’re excited about the position we’re in. We can sit back and see what makes sense moving forward. We can sit back and we don’t have to be super aggressive.

“You’re always looking to get better. It depends what’s out there. We’re always going to be aggressive. We’re a team that wants to win and we have the freedom to do it and we have the ability to do it, so why not go for it?”

Tallon was asked repeatedly during his 10-minute availability Thursday about the Hoffman deal and if he was concerned about how the controversial wing will fit into the Panthers' locker room. Hoffman was traded to the Sharks by the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday before he was flipped to the Panthers as Senators general manager Pierre Dorion attempted to fix what he called a “broken” dressing room Thursday.

Melinda Karlsson, the wife of Senators captain Erik Karlsson, filed an order of protection against Hoffman’s fiancee, Monika Caryk, on May 4 alleging harassment and cyberbullying in the form of threatening online postings.

“I’m real confident we have a strong locker room,” Tallon said. “We have a great core of young players. All the conversations, I’m very confident he will be embraced by our team. We have a great culture down there now starting at the top with [Panthers owner] Vinnie Viola and all the way down. We’ve developed a real strong culture. We’re very confident about this player fitting in nicely. I know a lot of people that know him. I know a lot of players that know him and I have no issues and no problem with him coming into our team.”

The draft concludes Saturday with Rounds 2-7.

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