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Panthers Satisfied With Pre-Deadline Moves

Monday, 02.27.2012 / 5:31 PM ET / Features
By Alain Poupart  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Panthers Satisfied With Pre-Deadline Moves
The Panthers stood pat on trade deadline day but made two moves in the days prior, picking up Wojtek Wolski (third from right) and Jerred Smithson (far right).
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers didn't make any trades on Monday, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Unlike last year, though, they were looking to add players instead of trying to shed salary and accumulate draft picks.

"We made a lot of phone calls," GM Dale Tallon said Monday afternoon at the BankAtlantic Center. "We had identified what we wanted to add to our lineup and we were unable to get exactly what we wanted to get without mortgaging our future. We tried and tried to keep improving and adding. There's just not a lot of activity today."

It was quite a contrast from last year's trade deadline, when the Panthers made four deals, all of them involving sending a veteran for picks or younger players. Leaving the Panthers that day were forwards Radek Dvorak and Chris Higgins as well as defensemen Bryan Allen and Dennis Wideman.

The Panthers did add a couple of players over the weekend when they acquired center Jerred Smithson from Nashville on Friday and forward Wojtek Wolski from the Rangers on Saturday.

The moves already have paid dividends, with Wolski scoring a game-tying goal late in the third period Saturday night at Carolina in a game the Panthers won 3-2 in a shootout and Smithson doing solid work on faceoffs that night and Sunday in a 4-2 victory against Montreal.

"We made our moves early," Tallon said. "Those moves probably would have cost us a lot more today to do. Overall, I'm satisfied with the team we have. We have tremendous depth now. We improved our team a few days ago and we're going to get healthier as we move on the next couple of weeks."

Tallon said the Panthers really didn't come close to making a trade on Monday.

Jason Garrison, who is third among NHL defensemen with 13 goals, was thought to possibly be in play because he's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. But Tallon said he never had any intention of trading him.

"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."

Veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson also was rumored to be targeted by some teams, but Tallon said his name didn't come up on Monday. Neither did that of top prospect Jonathan Huberdeau, the third pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.

Tallon said repeatedly in the last several days the Panthers' biggest need was to find additional scoring, and a top-six forward was the primary target.

"There wasn't really anything real close," Tallon said. "You make a lot of good trades when you're dealing with yourselves. We certainly made a lot of great deals today. If we had a fantasy draft, maybe we would have been fine. But this is reality and you've got to have a partner to dance with. We tried a couple of times to get a certain type player that we wanted but were unable to get them done."

Panthers GM Dale Tallon talks to the media following the close of the NHL Trade Deadline.
Thanks in part to last year's deadline trades, Tallon has built up a nice group of prospects for the future. But the Panthers have surprised many observers by leading the Southeast Division for most of the season after bringing in a slew of veteran newcomers.

Florida leads Winnipeg in the Southeast by two points with three games in hand, and has a three-point lead over Washington with one game in hand.

The Panthers' surprising success this season is what put Tallon in a different spot than at last year's trade deadline.

"You always want to be on the buying end," he 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.

"We have tremendous depth now. 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. We added a couple of good pieces with Smithson and Wolski and the players are excited about those moves and the add-ons. It's been a long time since we've been buyers and the players appreciate it and they're really excited about it."

Author: Alain Poupart | NHL.com Correspondent

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