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Tallon Adds Youth, Size To Panthers In Versteeg Trade

Friday, 11.15.2013 / 12:55 PM ET / Features
By Alain Poupart  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Tallon Adds Youth, Size To Panthers In Versteeg Trade

Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was telling the truth when he said after the firing of coach Kevin Dineen last week that more changes were coming.

It was somewhat of a surprise, though, that the next move involved forward Kris Versteeg, who was traded back to the Chicago Blackhawks two years after he signed a four-year contract extension and three years after Tallon had traded for him.

"We made the playoffs with Kris Versteeg two years ago for the first time in over a decade," Tallon said in a conference call Friday. "He played well that year and we had success. That hadn't been happening the last year and a half so we've got to make the best of the situation and look for changing and improving our team. He's an asset and he had value and we needed to make a change. It just so happens that it's Kris Versteeg."

In exchange for Versteeg and minor-league forward Philippe Lefebvre, the Panthers got Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen.

Hayes, a 6-foot-6 forward, will join the Panthers in time for their game Friday against the Minnesota Wild. Olsen, a 6-foot-2 defenseman, will join the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League.

Hayes was a 2008 second-round pick (No. 60) by the Toronto Maple Leafs who was traded to the Blackhawks in June 2010. Olsen was Chicago's first-round selection (No. 28) in 2009.

Hayes had 25 goals and 45 points in 67 games with Rockford of the AHL last season and had four goals and four assists in 13 AHL games this season while also appearing in two games for the Blackhawks.

"He's a big kid that's just coming on," Tallon said. "He's starting to get his coordination, his timing. Both these kids are in the position where they got blocked in Chicago with the talent that they have on the big club. It's an opportunity for them. They're excited. They understand they have a great chance to mean something and they're proud to be Panthers and they look forward to the challenge."

To consummate the trade with Chicago, the Panthers had to agree to pay half of the remainder of Versteeg's contract, which has two years left after this season at $4.4 million per season.

After Versteeg registered career highs in goals (23), points (54) and ice time (19:55 average) while helping the Panthers win the Southeast Division title in 2012, his performance diminished, in part because of injuries.

He underwent hip surgery after the 2011-12 season and was limited to 10 games last season due to surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

In 18 games this season Versteeg has two goals and five assists while averaging a career-low 15:42 of ice time. His minus-9 was the worst among Florida forwards. His low point came when he was a healthy scratch for a game against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 2.

"He's trying to do too much, probably carrying the burden of a big contract," Tallon said. "He probably tried to do too much and it wasn't consistent enough. This was based on performance and performance only.

"I just think that he had some flashes of brilliance but we need to be excellent every shift. He's going to a place where he had success and he'll be a good fit for them. This is a trade that fits both franchises very well with the direction that we're both headed in."

Tallon said the acquisition of Hayes and Olsen fits the blueprint of putting together a roster with a lot of size.

"We feel that we added two good young players to our foundation," he said. "They're big. We want to be big, we want to be strong, we want to be deep and we want to be tougher. And those are the things that we need to improve on. Adding size and diversity to our lineup -- Jimmy Hayes can play center and play wing. He's 6-foot-6. We have [Nick] Bjugstad at 6-foot-6, we have [Jacob] Markstrom at 6-foot-6, we’ve got [Erik] Gudbranson at 6-4, [Aleksander] Barkov, 6-3, [Alex] Petrovic is 6-4, [Quinton] Howden, 6-3. We're focusing on being bigger, faster, stronger, tougher, all those things to be a Stanley Cup-winning team."

The Panthers begin a five-game road trip Friday in Minnesota hoping to build on their 3-2 victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. The victory snapped a nine-game winless skid (0-5-4) that included Dineen's firing.

While frustrated with the team's performance, Tallon constantly has expressed optimism about the franchise's future because of its long list of blue-chip prospects, such as current Panthers Bjugstad, Barkov, Gudbranson and Jonathan Huberdeau, along with minor-leaguers like Vincent Trocheck and Petrovic as well as Boston College defenseman Michael Matheson.

"I only know one way to do it and we're building a tremendous foundation here for the future," Tallon said. "Jimmy Hayes will play on our team now and you see Bjugstad and Barkov and Huberdeau and Gudbranson, how good they are. And we have a lot more coming like them. Obviously you have to be patient. I know it's frustrating. I don't like what's happening. I want to win now too. We're going to do everything we can to win now and keep our eye on the future as well."

Author: Alain Poupart | NHL.com Correspondent




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

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