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."

88 Days to Kickoff: Warren Township

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88 Days to Kickoff: Warren Township

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Warren Township Blue Devils

Head coach: Bryan McNulty

Assistant coaches: Brandon Schild, Josh Williams, K.C Lange, Jim Voutiritsas, Luke Mueller Jr., John Hergenreder, Mark Mika, Cameron Campbell

How they fared in 2015: 6-5 (4-2) North Suburban Lake. Warren Township made the Class 8A state playoff field. The Blue Devils defeated Chicago Curie then lost to Naperville Central in second round action. 

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Blue Devils win the North Suburban Lake conference crown this fall?

Names to watch this season: WR Micah Jones QB Luke Schmidt OL/DL Cameron Shaw

Biggest holes to fill: The Blue Devils welcome back 14 starters (8 on defense) but who steps up to replace graduated RB Darrius Crump?

EDGY's Early Take: Warren Township will again have a ton of talent and if the underclassmen group can fill in at a few key spots beware of this team. 

Pau Gasol considering skipping Olympics amid Zika fears

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Pau Gasol considering skipping Olympics amid Zika fears

The uncertainty in Brazil over the spread of the Zika virus has Pau Gasol considering not playing in the upcoming Olympics.

The Bulls center, who is set to become a free agent on July 1, spoke with the Associated Press about his reluctancy to travel to Brazil, a country that's been hit by the mosquito-borne virus the last year.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see some athletes deciding not to participate in the games to avoid putting their health and the health of their families at risk," Gasol told the AP.

"I'm thinking about (whether or not to go)," he said. "Just like every athlete, or any other person considering going to Rio, should be thinking about it."

Gasol's absence would be a considerable one for the Spain national team, which earned silver medals in 2008 and 2012.

The virus, which first appeared in Brazil in 2015 and has spread to anywhere between 500,000 and 1.5 million people, has been a large topic of conversation on the horizon of the Olympic Games, which begin Aug. 5.

The report said Gasol has contacted experts to learn more about the virus before making a final decision.

"We need to understand the seriousness of the situation," he said. "Even though there are some soothing words being said, we know that there are different opinions about the subject."

Stanley Cup Final preview: Commonalities between Penguins, Sharks

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Stanley Cup Final preview: Commonalities between Penguins, Sharks

The San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins don’t see each other much during the regular season but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a common bond. For each, the chance to end years of frustration – certainly more for the Sharks than the Penguins – is here.

It’s the Stanley Cup Final, and for just the second time since 2010 the Western Conference is represented by someone other than the Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings. Instead, the Sharks are making their first Cup appearance in franchise history. They’re facing a Penguins team that’s back in the final for the first time since 2009, when they beat the Detroit Red Wings for the Cup.

A show of hands: Who had these two in the final when they did their preseason predictions? Not many, if any. Two years ago the Sharks had a 3-0 series lead against the Kings, who came back to beat San Jose in four straight. From the summer of 2014 to the spring of 2015, the Sharks took letters off sweaters, missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years and dismissed coach Todd McLellan. From an outside perspective, it looked like things would get worse before they got better.

As for Pittsburgh, the Penguins have been in the postseason every year since 2009 but failed to return to this stage each time.

So what changed this year for each? Let’s start with the Sharks. As my Bay Area colleague Kevin Kurz pointed out, the Sharks are here for several reasons: A change in attitude and goaltending and finding the right pieces to complement a longstanding core are among them. Removing/renaming captains could have torn the Sharks apart. And while there was plenty of friction and a few verbal jabs at the time, the Sharks stuck together. General manager Doug Wilson made a few key moves, including acquiring Martin Jones from Boston on June 30, 2015 (the Bruins had traded for Jones just four days prior). The backup-turned-starter was excellent.

The Penguins are here due to a lot of the same reasons: They changed coaches and tweaked their lineup around their core. Acquiring defenseman Trevor Daley from the Blackhawks in December proved pivotal. Daley, who didn’t log many minutes with the Blackhawks, fit in immediately with the Penguins. Blackhawks fans who took to Twitter asking, “Why did they trade for Daley?” in July 2015, asked, “Why did they trade Daley away?” in April.

Pittsburgh went with a new goalie, too, albeit for different reasons. When Marc-Andre Fleury was sidelined with a concussion in March, Matt Murray got his chance. And outside of Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Murray is still in there. It’s one more feel-good story from a final that is teeming with them.

The path to the Stanley Cup Final is rarely an easy one. Some teams have had to go through massive changes to get there (please see the Blackhawks just prior to 2010). The Sharks and Penguins had to make their changes as well, from personality to personnel. Both have gone through their turmoil to get here. Now to see who ultimately triumphs.