Dale Tallon may sound like he has his head in the sand. He does not.
You can be around hockey as long as the 67-year-old Tallon has and convincingly brush off concerns about taking on a radio-active player like Mike Hoffman, while on a conference call with 25 hockey writers. But privately, Tallon knows that there will be fall out if fiancé Monika Caryk is found guilty of harassing Melinda and Erik Karlsson, as she is accused of doing.
He knows the risks. He just doesn’t want to talk about them much.
“I talked to some of our players (about the acquisition). I had no pushback at all,” said Tallon, who spoke of this as a plain hockey deal, referencing the elephant in the room only when asked directly. “He played with (Jonathan) Huberdeau in Saint John. Our (hockey operations) staff, Chris Pronger and Bryan McCabe … they know a lot of people who know him. I trust my guys. I trust my staff.
“And here we are.”
And here we are.
With a peace bond having been granted the Karlssons to shield them from Caryk, and the Ottawa Citizen reporting there is an active investigation by Ottawa police detectives into criminal harassment (stalking) allegations, Tallon acquires a lot more than just a 25-30 goal winger here.
This thing can go two ways, and Tallon is clearly willing to take that risk.
The 2018 fourth- and fifth-rounders and a second-round pick in 2019 given to San Jose — which grabbed Hoffman from Ottawa for Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergnan and a sixth-round pick — are more than fair value for Hoffman. But that is assuming the Panthers get the full Hoffman, and not a version of the player who is paralyzed by whatever comes out of the Ottawa courts.
That San Jose, with a dressing room culture and leadership group as strong as any in the National Hockey League, passed on Hoffman says much. It tells us that Sharks GM Doug Wilson either did not like the risk, or he also approached his veteran leadership group and they said, “No way.”
Where culture, stability and leadership are concerned the Sharks are miles ahead of Florida. Don’t forget that, as this story trundles along.
Caryk’s guilt will be proven or disproved through the process, with URLs and social media DNA that will provide an indisputable conclusion, we predict. Hoffman’s knowledge of her undertakings, if indeed there were any, will likely be harder to nail down.
But that legal decision will be where this gamble gets real for Florida. The Panthers may have acquired a 25- to 30-goal scorer. Or perhaps they acquired a distracted player whose other half becomes a divisive force in the Panthers wives room.
Think it through: What if Caryk is guilty as charged? What if it turns out that she did the unfathomable act of fashioning those on-line messages hoping for the death of the Karlsson’s child?
How does she march into the Panthers wives room – or any NHL wives room — and not cause the pot to boil over? It is inside that room, the presiding happiness in that ecosystem, where the ladies can have a far greater effect on the harmony of an NHL team than most people realize.
When a fiancé is ostracized, the player doesn’t play as well. Guaranteed.
“It’s important,” admitted Tallon, with a dismissive chuckle. “We have a young group, a great room. Our wives and girlfriends really got along great last year. It definitely has to have some sort of impact.
“But they get along better when the team wins more.”
Tallon has no Swedes on his roster, thus no patriotic allegiance to the Karlssons. Every woman — every person — is on the side of decency, however, so Tallon’s risk lies on Hoffman’s word when he said, “There is a 150% chance that my fiancé Monika and I are not involved in any of the accusations that have been pursued, (that are) coming our way.”
We would hope that the investigations find some anonymous voice is behind this harassment, and Caryk and Hoffman are exonerated. But even then, after Kyle Turris’ wife Julie and goalie Andrew Hammond’s wife Marlee made on-line statements that paint Caryk as guilty, doubt will exist in the sometimes toxic wives community.
Like every trade, there is risk here, and there is reward. This one however, it’s not the same as most transactions.
Tallon knows it. He’s just hoping he is still laughing it off six months from now.