Here are quotes from Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon after the franchise signed goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, winger Brett Connolly, defenseman Anton Stralman and forward Noel Acciari in the first day of free agency on Monday.
On acquiring goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky - “We were hot after both of them (Sergei Bobrovksy and Artemi Panarin) together and it was getting closer and closer and then it looked like it might not come together so we decided that we would go in a different direction and give more balance to our team and address some of the needs that made our team better overall. Not that (Panarin) wouldn’t have made a big difference but we needed defense, we needed lots of things. Goaltending, defense and we needed a lot more depth in our team so that was the way we decided to go once we felt it might not work out. We’re very happy with the guys (we signed), we identified these guys and we ended up getting them all, so it was good.”
On having a goaltender of that caliber - “He’s a two-time Vezina Trophy winner who gives you a chance to win every night. He’s durable and is a very good player. He’s a student of the game. Nobody works harder so it will be interesting to see guys like (Aleksander) Barkov and Bobrovsky working off the ice like that. It will be a great example for our young players to follow.”
On today’s activity - “We felt that we needed to make changes to our roster and make it deeper so we can make a good run for the playoffs. We addressed the needs. Obviously goaltending and defense. I think (Anton) Stralman gives a chance for (Mike) Matheson or one our young players to play with him and he’s really excited about coming here to help and mentor and play well. We added some grit and toughness and also depth on the wings and some size. We have plenty of scoring ability, plenty of offense, we had to address compete. The physicality and the goals against were the biggest concerns we had, and I think we did a really good job in addressing those needs.”
On Anton Stralman - “I like his ability to move the puck, his defensive play, he’s steady, he’s reliable and he’s smart. He’ll be a good partner for one of our young guys.”
On how he feels about the team after today - “I feel really good about our team. Starting with coaching, now goaltending and all the way up through. Coming off Development Camp, all the depth we have in the organization we are really excited about not only the present now but the future as well. We didn’t really block any of our young guys with long term deals so that was a thought process as well. With (Grigori) Denisenko, (Aleksi) Heponiemi and (Owen) Tippett and all these kids we didn’t want to block them out of a possible chance to play. It’s all positive for us, we thought we had a great day and we look forward to the challenges of moving up and making the playoffs.”
About acquiring players with playoff experience - “Well that’s very important. A Stanley Cup winner in (Brett) Connolly and guys that all played in the playoffs last year as well. It’s going to help our young guys and they’re going to show them the way. The price you have to pay to get into the playoffs, these guys will lead by example.”
On Brett Connolly - “Our depth is something that really improved. Connolly is a very efficient player; he’s averaged 18 goals the last two years in about 12 minutes of ice time per game. He can kill penalties, he can play power plays and play a downlow heavy game. So, he’s only 27 years old so that came that one came to it as well and it’s a good contract. I think it’s a good fit for us.”
On Noel Acciari - “Well that’s what we’ve been lacking, and this guy is going to make people accountable and make our own players accountable as well. He’s a versatile player, wins face-offs, it will take some of the burden away from Barky (Aleksander Barkov). Defense zone face-offs, killing penalties and playing that physical role. It gives our fourth line a little more spirit and passion.”
On Sergei Bobrovsky off the ice - “All the feedback from him was that you’ve got to tone him down because he works so hard and you’ve got to tell him to back off sometimes. I’d rather have it that way than the other way where you have to poke somebody in their rear end to get going that’s not going to happen with our team. I’m excited to spend some time with him. He’s a very intelligent guy, a very motivated guy and he’s very talented as well. So, it’s all good.”
Thought process in signing Bobrovsky for seven years after selecting Spencer Knight 13th overall - “First round goalie (Spencer Knight), he’s 18 years old. It takes six, seven years and most goalies are 24, 25, 26 before they really hit it big in the NHL. But he’s aware, I had a good talk with Spencer. I suggested that this might happen and he knows the plan and he’s good with it. He has time now to mature and develop at his pace, but we have high hopes for him. He’s a brilliant goaltender.”
So there you have. The Panthers are a better team than they were on Sunday. How much better remains to be seen. Are they good enough to supplant Tampa Bay, Boston or Toronto to gain a guaranteed playoff spot or will they be a wild card team? Doesn’t matter a whole to be how they do, just make the playoffs and go from there.
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