SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – For hockey fans, what has felt like a long wait is finally about to end.
It's the Christmas Eve of the hockey calendar and the excitement around the league is palpable, but that is especially true in South Florida.
Monday is July 1st, when NHL free agents are free to sign with new teams.
The Florida Panthers are in somewhat uncharted territory, as general manager Dale Tallon has the team positioned right smack dab in the eye of the storm.
There is no question that the top two free agents hitting the market on Monday are left winger Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Both have been drawing a ton of interest, both are going to sign massively rewarding contracts and (surprise, surprise) both are considering signing with Florida.
On Sunday, with most of the hockey world holding its breath in anticipation of what will happen starting at noon on Monday, the Panthers wrapped up their 3-day Development Camp at the team's practice facility in Coral Springs.
Afterwards Tallon briefly spoke to the media about his stable of young prospects, but also addressed questions regarding the pending frenzy of free agency that was less than 24 hours away.
Here is what he had to say on the subject:
On the opening of free agency- "It's been busy. Very busy. We've had a busy week, busy couple weeks really. The [NHL] draft [last weekend] and then this week of talking about the weather for a week with the agents, and now we get down to the brass tacks about dollars. It's never easy. July 1st the players are in control and then later on in the summer we're in control. We're in good position, I think we're going to be very successful moving forward. I like our plan and I think it's gonna be a real positive day for us tomorrow."
On Florida's pitch to free agents- "Having the coach and having the players that we have, our core players, everyone that we've talked to really liked the direction we're heading. With the commitment from [Panthers owner] Vinnie Viola and the fact that he wants to be a cap team, and bringing [new head coach] Joel [Quenneville] in, and also the players that we have in our system, we have a lot of great young players as well that are coming, and we've got a great nucleus of young players with [Aleksander] Barkov and [Jonathan] Huberdeau and [Vincent] Trocheck, you can go down the list, [Evgenii] Dadonov, I'm sure I'm gonna forget somebody. Everyone that we've spoken with that we want to come here are really impressed with what we're doing and the team that we have, so it should be a positive day for us."
On Florida's current restricted free agents – "We'll see how it goes. We're not closing the door on anything. If we have success tomorrow, there's only so much money to go around with an $81.5 million dollar [salary] cap. We like our plan, we like where we're positioned and let's go after it tomorrow."
On signing depth players – "It takes 23 to win. It takes 50, actually. Fifty contracts and good players. You need good call-ups, you need a good minor-league system. We have great coaching and a great system down there [with the AHL's Springfield Thunderbirds] and we're starting to get really deep as far as our young players, as evidenced by today [at development camp]. I like what we have coming down the pipe and it's all positive for the Florida Panthers."
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