SUNRISE, Fla. – It was a quiet Trade Deadline Day at the BankAtlantic Center, as General Manager Dale Tallon and his staff fielded phone calls in the team’s “war room” but failed to pull the trigger on any deadline deals.
It wasn’t for a lack of effort. Florida was a buyer for the first time in a while. The Panthers lead the Southeast Division by two points over the Winnipeg Jets, and like any buyers, would have liked to add something to their lineup.
“We made a lot of phone calls and we had identified what we wanted to add to our lineup,” Tallon said. “We were unable to get exactly what we wanted to get without mortgaging our future. We tried and tried to keep improving and adding. Just not a lot of activity today.
“There were some pieces we were looking at, but the price was too high.”
To be fair, the Panthers made their moves over the weekend. On Friday, they acquired Jarred Smithson from the Nashville Predators for a sixth round pick in 2012. Saturday afternoon, Wojtek Wolski came to the Panthers from the New York Rangers for a third round pick in 2013 and AHL defenseman Mike Vernace.
“We made our moves early,” Tallon said. “Those moves probably would have cost us a lot more today.”
Wolski’s pickup perticularily paid off, as the forward scored his first goal of the season in his first game with the Panthers at the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday. His goal tied the game up. The Panthers won in a shootout.
Tallon hinted that there was some interest in forward Mikael Samuelsson prior to the deadline, from teams that he had played for in the past. He did not garner any interest Monday.
Jason Garrison’s name was also rumored to be in play, but Tallon insists the unrestricted free agent was not on the block.
“Jason is a big part of our team and a big part of our future,” Tallon said. “We’re definitely going to continue to negotiate and get him a fair contract. He’s a valuable asset. We need Jason. He’s a shutdown guy besides having that big shot, and he plays a lot of valuable minutes for us.”
This season’s deadline was a far cry from last years, when Tallon had to dump salary as he attempted to rebuild the Panthers franchise. Tallon made eight trades last February, including four deals on deadline day. In all, just one of the players acquired last February – Jack Skille – remains part of the organization.
“You always want to be on the buying end,” Tallon said. “It’s no fun being a seller. It was necessary for us to be sellers last year and it’s been necessary in other places, too, where I’ve been involved where you had to sell before you could get better and improve. Now we’re looking forward to adding as we go on. We’ve got great pieces coming, too, great prospects. We’ve got a good, solid base and we’re going to continue to add to it every year.
“ When we get everyone back, we’re going to have some tough decisions to make and we’re going to have competition for jobs. That’ll really help us. It’s a good, solid team.”
The Panthers take on the Toronto Maples Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, in a game that is huge for the Leafs, who are sitting in 10th place, three points out of the final playoff spot.