Blackhawks

Ex-Hawks GM Tallon gets extension with Panthers

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Ex-Hawks GM Tallon gets extension with Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. Dale Tallon assembled a team that got the Florida Panthers back into the playoffs. He has bigger plans now, and the Panthers are making sure their general manager has the chance to see them through.

Tallon and the Panthers announced Wednesday that they have agreed on a multiyear contract extension. Specific terms were not disclosed.

"I think it was very, very important for us to give the contract extension to Dale for one very, very crucial reason," Panthers general partner Cliff Viner said. "And that is I think it's important for us to show our confidence in Dale, so that he can be confident and he can have the certainty that he can execute his plan and our plan for long-term success."

Tallon joined the Panthers in May 2010. He led a turnaround that included the snapping of a 12-year playoff drought and the club's first Southeast Division title this season.

Florida lost a first-round series to eventual Eastern Conference champion New Jersey, losing Game 7 to the Devils at home in double overtime.

"We had a good year. We're very positive going into the offseason," Tallon said. "But we're not satisfied. If you get into the playoffs, anything can happen."

Tallon is a finalist for the NHL's Executive of the Year award, with the winner set to be announced later this month.

His fingerprints are all over multiple aspects of the franchise, with him having reshaped the club's hockey operations department and much of the team's roster. The Panthers finished 38-26-18 this season, the 94 points being their most since finishing with 98 in 1999-2000 - which, until this season, was their most recent playoff year.

He hired Kevin Dineen to coach the team a year ago, brought Michael Santos in as an assistant general manager, signed assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay and also hired director of player development Brian Skrudland.

"I think we have a great core here and we have a great nucleus of character people who really care," Tallon said. "And they weren't excited about losing a Game 7, believe me. Our exit meetings were very fruitful, but there was a lot of disappointment in that locker room. Guys weren't satisfied about losing a Game 7 in double overtime."

Tallon said the team has already offered restricted free agent forward Kris Versteeg and free agent goaltender Scott Clemmensen contracts for next season. Another free agent who will be getting an offer this week is defenseman Jason Garrison, and Tallon is hopeful all those deals will eventually get done.

Another deal that was a no-brainer, he said, was his own. Tallon said he had no designs on leaving Florida anytime soon.

"There was never any doubt," Tallon said. "Regardless of this, I was going to give my heart and soul to this franchise. Now it just gives us security and the ability to go forward ... and work together toward the common goal of winning the Stanley Cup."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."