The Florida Panthers might be hemorrhaging money and artificially inflating attendance in their own arena, but that's not going to keep their new owner from opening up his wallet.
Panthers owner Vinnie Viola told general manager Dale Tallon on Friday to spend to the "maximum amount" allowed in the salary cap this offseason to acquire elite talent, according to Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel.
This has to sound like good news for Panthers fans. The team has $4 million in available cap space this season, but well-paid pending free agents like Tim Thomas, Brad Boyes and Marcel Goc will help free up $17.3 million when the salary cap rises to $71.1 million next season. It sounds like they have money for Tallon to spend.
"They want to win. That's what's going on here. They've given me the green light to be a cap team. So that's fantastic. Not a floor team, a cap team. We're excited.''
"They've given me an open [wallet]. I'm pumped up,'' Tallon said. "We can do hockey deals now, what the best deal is as far as hockey is considered.''
But will that open wallet be filled with taxpayer money? The Sun-Sentinel reported this week that the Panthers lose about $20 million per year and are asking Broward County taxpayers to pick up $70 million of their BB&T Center bill over the next 14 years while they develop a casino-hotel next door to the arena. This, for a team that's 25th in attendance and rarely a playoff team.
The Panthers clearly have some financial issues still in play, so we'll see how much freedom Tallon actually has to spend when the offseason arrives.