Tallon Sends Message, Deals Booth to Canucks
By Bill Whitehead
SUNRISE, Fla. — No one can ever accuse Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon of doing things in a small way.
Tallon, who pulled the strings on the biggest makeover in club history in the summer, rocked everyone once again Saturday night by trading away fan favorite David Booth to the Vancouver Canucks just before the puck dropped on the Panthers’ game with the New York Islanders at BankAtlantic Center.
Also being shipped to the Canucks was center Steven Reinprecht and a 2013 third-round draft pick, which actually came from Vancouver last year in a trade that sent left winger Chris Higgins to the Canucks. In return, the Panthers received veteran forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. Samuelsson, a Stanley Cup winner with Detroit, was a member of the Panthers during the 2003-2004 season,
Speaking to the media 10 minutes before the game, Tallon said he was trying to do two things — increase production and send a message to the team.
“A lot of things come in to play, but we’re in the performance business. We’re not happy with our team’s performance in the last two games, and we weren’t going to let this fester. I wanted to send a message and we wanted to get better,” said Tallon, whose club was blanked at Washington on Tuesday and at home Thursday by Buffalo.
“You better play to your capabilities. I don’t care who you are, you’ve got to perform. I’m not going to sit back and watch two performances like the last two games.”
From a performance-standpoint, the struggling Booth was an obvious choice as anyone. The 26-year-old was scoreless and a minus-6 in six games this year and a team-worst minus-31 last season. He didn’t tally a point in Florida’s 7-4 win over Tampa Bay Monday when seemingly everyone scored. The trade came almost two years to the day of the former Michigan State standout receiving a concussion after a vicious hit by then-Philadelphia Flyer Mike Richards.
“If you don’t perform, there’s a good chance you’re not going to stay here,” added Tallon. “I just had a feeling on what I’d seen in the last year that we needed to make a move to make our team better. We needed some stability in the organization and on the ice. (Samuelsson and Sturm) are guys with good hockey sense. They’re both plus hockey players who play both ways and can contribute offensively.”
Tallon added that he didn’t expect visa problems with Samuelsson and Sturm. The Panthers play Monday in Montreal and Thursday in Ottawa before heading to Buffalo on Saturday. The two players will meet the Panthers in Montreal.
Booth was in the second year of a six-year, $25.5 million contract while Reinprecht was loaned to a club in Germany last year. The team learned of the trade shortly before the game, and it appeared to affect them early as the Islanders scored just 61 seconds into the game.
Center Stephen Weiss, who stole the puck from Evgeni Nabokov to set up Florida’s first goal by Kris Versteeg, is in his tenth season with the Panthers and watched Booth debut with the club in 2006.
“I didn’t get a chance to see him,” Weiss said. “I came in after warmup and he was gone. That’s the worst part. He’s gone and you don’t get the chance to wish him luck. It happened so quickly as we were going on to the ice that it really hasn’t sunk in. I had forgotten about it until I came in (to the dressing room). It’ll sink in the next couple of days when he’s not around the room. You never want to see it happen to your teammates, but life goes on.”
Florida coach Kevin Dineen said the timing of the trade, which Tallon admitted had been in the works for a week, was difficult.
“For me, to have it happen late in the day is hard on David, hard on us because we’re losing a guy that’s been here for so long and has a good body of work he’s put in. He’s an emotional kid whose heart is always in the right place,” said Dineen of Booth, who scored 87 goals in 309 game for the Panthers.
Oh by the way, there was a game. With the help of Shawn Matthias’s three-point game, Florida defeated the Islanders 4-2 to snap that nasty two-game losing streak, improving the Panthers’ record to 4-3-0.
Message sent and received.
By Bill Whitehead
NHLHS Florida Panthers Credentialed Correspondent