Florida Panthers: Dale Tallon Steps Forward to Own His Brian Campbell Contract

Scott WeldonCorrespondent IJune 25, 2011

Brain Campbell with the Cup in Chicago
Brain Campbell with the Cup in ChicagoBruce Bennett/Getty Images

Dale Tallon pulled the trigger on another trade with his former team the Chicago Blackhawks. At this year's trade deadline Tallon called up his replacement in Chicago, general manager Stan Bowman, and orchestrated a Michael Frolik and Alex Salak for Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman and David Pacan trade. If there is any malice felt between Tallon and his former employers, he certainly is not allowing it to effect business.

The Florida Panthers yesterday acquired defenseman Brian Campbell while Chicago picks up left winger Rostislav Olesz.

Campbell is a quality offensive defenseman who, like many of his ilk, has problems with the puck in his own zone. He is a fancy puck mover and good skater. The point shot makes him an excellent power play quarterback. Tallon originally signed him away from the San Jose Sharks in 2008. The general consensus he made Campbell one of the most overpaid players in hockey.

Campbell was a better than half point a game defenseman in Chicago. He was a useful player for the Blackhawks in their run to the Western Conference Finals in 2009 and to the Stanley Cup in 2010.

The biggest knock against Campbell has more to do with his salary than his defensive short-comings.

Campbell is 32 years old this May 23 and has five years left on a contract, paying him $7.142 million a year. That was a huge cap hit for the Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks to absorb even before they won the cup. They have decided they can spend that money better elsewhwere. 

The Blackhawks are saddled with another failed Panther first round pick: Rostislav Olesz (2004, seventh overall). Olesz was picked in between Blake Wheeler, Al Montoya, Alexandre Picard and Ladislav Smid. He doesn't look out of place in that group but he certainly has not become the offensive force the Panthers imagined when they took him.

Olesz is still only 26. His best season was 2009/10 when he scored 14 goals and 29 points in 78 games for the Panthers. Last year he missed half the year with a variety of ailments. Coming back from a broken finger did not help his offense.

While there still is some unrealized potential here the big bonus for Chicago is that he is under contract for only three more years at $3.125 million a year. If he makes the big squad Chicago still saves a $ 4 million a year cap hit and over $26 million total over the life of both contracts. 

In the end this deal works for everyone. Chicago sheds what was an unworkable contract for them. They pick up a young player with potential who will have to compete with a bevvy of younger, cheaper Blackhawk prospects to make the team. If he earns his spot it's a bonus and if doesn't Chicago has even more extra cap space to address needs. 

Maybe the Blackhawks can spend that money on a veteran goalie or another top six forward. By not paying $7 plus million a year for a redundant power play quarterback they have freed themselves up to actually be able to make hockey deals again, not just cap-clearing maneuvers.

The Panthers meanwhile have picked up an exciting offensive defenseman who can competently quarterback their power play for the next half decade. Tallon began his tenure in Florida by trying to fix one of the league's worst defensive and penalty killing squads. Now he is addressing another neglected niche.

The Panthers had the worst power play in the league last year with a 13.1 percent, and I use the term loosely, success rate. Now they have a veteran to run it for them. He can be the offensive mentor while Mike Weaver trains the young up and coming Florida defensemen in the defensive aspects of the game.

Brian Campbell gives the fans an exciting, interesting player to watch while their deep pool of young talent develops.

He is also the perfect addition for a Florida Panther squad that still needs to add $27 million in salary to reach the floor of the salary cap. The Florida Panthers not only can accept an inflated contract like Campbell's they need one or two of those.

This is Dale Tallon's opportunity to show that Brian Campbell is the perfect offensive defenseman on a team that isn't under crushing salary cap constraints. Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks will get an opportunity to show how they can improve their team when the same is true for them.