It didn't take long for Dale Tallon to make his mark on the Florida Panthers. Over the course of two weeks fans of all teams were awed as Tallon and Mike Santos drafted 10 prospects and brought in 10 new roster players to completely reshape and reinvigorate the Panthers. The players drafted this year should all be considered long-term projects, but the trades and signings made were for real NHL players with real NHL contracts. Each player brought in has different qualities and concerns, but the objective as always is to make the Panthers a better team.
Though you wouldn't know it by the amount of coverage he's received since free-agency day, Scottie Upshall was the highest scoring player brought in by Dale Tallon during the signing period. With 22 goals split between two teams, the Phoenix Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets, Upshall had the best season of his career while playing in all 82 games. Upon signing with the Panthers, Upshall immediately revealed his full faith in Dale Tallon's blueprint and excitement for a new season. At 27 years old, Upshall is a bit of a late bloomer, but like most of the new additions to the Panthers, have a genuine shot at stability with a 4 year contract. More after the jump.
There is a common theme with many of the players Dale Tallon brought in through free agency, many have made their rounds across the NHL with multiple teams recently. Scottie Upshall is the best example of this, in 361 games Upshall has played with 4 teams with the Panthers soon to become his 5th. Upshall started his career with the Nashville Predators, got his feet under him with the Philadelphia Flyers, was then traded to the Phoenix Coyotes and once again to the Columbus Blue Jackets before signing with the Panthers on July 1st. Looking season by season, Upshall's numbers haven't been entirely spectacular, but understand Scottie's plight; Upshall has never played two full seasons with the same team. Upshall didn't lack the talent, he lacked the stability of sticking with his own team for more than 1.5 seasons. 4 new cities, 4 new sets of teammates, 4 new coaches, 4 new systems in 6 years isn't conducive to anyone's success.
I dare you to tell me this kid doesn't deserve a four year deal. Upshall's last two seasons with the Coyotes have been the best of his career, and after finally finishing a season having played all 82 games someone needed to take a chance on him. Where is the sense in wasting the prime years of a players career throwing him across the league like a hot potato because no one is willing to take a risk and sign a .5 point/game player to a long term contract and possibly give him an environment to improve for more than 2 years? There isn't a person across the league who can scoff at signing a 20 goal player to a 4 year contract.
Yes, you can look at Scottie Upshall's 34 point season last year and not think much of it. In all honesty, I was a bit shocked his points total was so low after scoring 22 goals. 22 goals and 12 assists on a playoff team seems a bit fishy, even though it's fair to say Phoenix wasn't as good this season as the year before. When a player's goals profoundly exceed his assists, it seems indicative that the player was the one scoring the goals, not creating them. This doesn't mean Upshall isn't a playmaker, but perhaps that he didn't have the line mates for it to be apparent. Oh, and getting traded (once again) at the deadline never helps.
A look at Upshall's 6 full NHL seasons:
Sure it's a gamble signing Upshall to a four year contract, but I urge you to take a look at the replays of Scottie's 22 goals last season. Upshall didn't look like a 30 point player, he was a genuine sharp shooter unafraid to go to the net. Dale Tallon took a lot of heat this offseason for signing 'spare parts' to the team, but if there was one thing the Panthers needed last season it was someone who could bury the puck from the top of the circles. David Booth and Stephen Weiss can make the plays, Scottie Upshall can beat the goalie. I wouldn't mind a few more spares if they shoot like Upshall.
The most refreshing part of the Upshall signing was his pure excitement and faith in the new Panthers, a sentiment welcomed by fans and players alike on a day that saw the signing of 7 new Cats. After watching the Jay Bouwmeester and Nathan Horton episodes unfold the summers before, it was a relief to sign a player who wasn't only willing to play for the Panthers, but was excited to become a Panther. Upshall wasn't facing a desperate situation like Scott Hannan either, Upshall was one of the first signings of the free agency period. If Upshall's off-ice excitement is anything like his on-ice energy, the Panthers have made a major score.
There is a reason Scottie Upshall is the new addition I'm most excited about. After a good season last year and what looks like an entirely new support cast of interchangeable talent for linemates, Upshall may finally turn a corner with the Panthers and never look back.