Florida Panthers

Big overhaul wasn’t Panthers GM Dale Tallon’s original plan

Roberto Luongo returns to the Florida Panthers after being traded from the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Luongo is shown with CEO and president Rory Babish and GM Dale Tallon.
Roberto Luongo returns to the Florida Panthers after being traded from the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Luongo is shown with CEO and president Rory Babish and GM Dale Tallon. Miami Herald Staff

Dale Tallon promised changes when he took over the Panthers almost five years ago and, if nothing else, he has delivered.

Since Tallon was named general manager in 2010, the Panthers have been completely overturned and overhauled.

When Tallon traded to get Roberto Luongo back last March, he sent two players (Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias) to Vancouver who weren’t picked by him.

On the current roster, only Dmitry Kulikov was selected or acquired by the Panthers by someone other than Tallon.

A complete overhaul, he said, wasn’t the original intent.

“I was trying to identify the best players who would give us the best future, and sometimes you have to pay a price for that,” Tallon said.

“We’re always looking to do what’s best for the franchise’s present and future. I didn’t trade guys because they weren’t ‘my guys.’ That would be a stupid way of doing business. But I only know how to do things the way I did them before. Although most of the guys are gone, that wasn’t pre-planned.”

Kulikov is the final holdover from the previous management team. He was drafted by Randy Sexton in 2009.

Matthias and Markstrom were either acquired or drafted by Jacques Martin.

Just weeks after taking the reins of the Panthers, Tallon asked players whether they wanted to be part of the rebuild. Some weren’t so keen on the idea, so Tallon traded them away.

In his first four years, Tallon traded the likes of Nathan Horton, Keith Ballard, Kris Versteeg, Marcel Goc and Mike Weaver, and he let Stephen Weiss walk away during free agency.

“I think he had to do that,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “When he first started, he brought a lot of guys he knew from the Chicago organization, and it has turned over pretty quick. I think the success we’re having this year is helped by the six veteran guys we brought in over the summer.”

Kulikov, now in his sixth season with the Panthers, said he has gotten used to having a new team every year. The Panthers have also had plenty of coaching turnover.

“Every year is a new year, and many have been completely new from coaches to the players,” said Kulikov, who is on his fourth coach with the Panthers.

“You get used to getting to know guys during training camp. I don’t really think about it, although some may take it as a shock. I’m used to it. I just want to win. We’ve had some great groups of guys, but we’ve come up short.”

HIGHLIGHT REEL

The Canucks are planning to honor Luongo with a highlight video during one of the first stoppages in play on Thursday night.

Luongo spent parts of eight seasons with the Canucks after being traded to Vancouver by the Panthers in 2006.

Sports network TSN, whom Luongo did some work for this past spring, was also putting together a top-10 special featuring Luongo’s Vancouver highlights.

“I think it’s going to be emotional,” Luongo said Wednesday. “I’m flattered that they’re doing it, and I told them it wasn’t necessary. But a little recognition is probably good for both sides, I would guess.”

▪ Everyone was on the ice Wednesday, as the Panthers get closer and closer to being completely healthy.

Even Shawn Thornton, who has been out for a month with a groin injury, got in a long on-ice workout. Thornton isn’t expected to play until the Panthers return home, at the least.

“Everyone is pretty much coming back,” Gallant said.

▪ Vincent Trocheck was fined $2,000 by the NHL on Wednesday for embellishing his fall when he was tripped by Washington’s Mike Green on Sunday.

The penalty gave the Panthers a 5-on-3 chance, and Trocheck was skewered by Green and Washington coach Barry Trotz in postgame comments.

“I watched the video, and, honestly, it doesn’t look good,” Trocheck said. “It does look like I embellished. But I’m a pretty honest kid. If I took a dive, I would admit it. It wasn’t that [Green] hit me hard, but it was he hit me. He hit me right on a nerve and sent a shock through my entire left leg. I went down, and when I got back up it locked up. I couldn’t do much about it.”

Thursday: Panthers at Canucks

When/where: 10 p.m.; Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560.

Series: Vancouver leads 12-7-6.

Noteworthy: The Panthers have won two of the past three meetings with the Canucks, including a shootout victory in Vancouver.

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