By Jim Charshafian
When Greg Rallo hit the NHL free agency market on July 1st, he was free to entertain offers from any organization that came forward, but he had already known where he wanted to continue his hockey career for months.
Rallo never wanted to leave the Florida Panthers’ organization, so when the team called the veteran forward and offered him a two-way contract earlier this month, Rallo jumped at the chance to sign a new pact with the club.
“In my exit meeting, I made it pretty clear that I’d like to be back,” said Rallo. “There’s a lot of things about the organization that I really like and mainly it’s that their goal is to win. I want to win the Calder Cup and they want the same thing, so in that aspect, it was a pretty easy decision. When they gave me the call and asked me to come back, it was a no-brainer for me.”
The 30-year-old Rallo posted 22 goals and 20 assists in 72 games with the Rampage last year. He also made his NHL debut with the Panthers last December.
“I think I’m a pretty loyal person,” he said. “Last year, they gave me an opportunity to sign a two-way contract and then they rewarded me for my play by bringing me up to the NHL. There was no reason to look elsewhere. I wanted to be back here.”
Rallo and his wife, Laina, have adjusted to life as new parents over the summer. They welcomed their daughter, Avery, into the world shortly after the Rampage’s season ended in May.
“She’s been keeping us busy these days,” he said. “It’s definitely been a new experience for us and we’re really excited.”
Throughout the offseason, Rallo has been training at the AT&T Center as well as the Northwoods ice rink, the Rampage’s practice facility. His goal in his offseason training has been to improve his footwork.
“I’ve always tried to get faster,” he said. “That’s the one aspect of the game that coaches have always preached to me to work on, so that’s been the focus of my summer workouts. I’ve been doing a lot of agility work and a lot of speed work, and hopefully, those drills pay off when the season starts.”
The Gurnee, Illinois native will take a break from his workouts to introduce Avery to his family in Chicago and to Laina’s relatives in Alberta, Canada. When he resumes his training, Rallo will head to his alma mater, Ferris State, to work out until Florida’s training camp begins in September.
Rallo aims to get off to a faster start to the season than he did last year when he was still adjusting to life in San Antonio.
“Now that I know the coaches and the organization, and the fact that I feel very comfortable in San Antonio, there’s no more excuses. It’s on me to have a really good start and that’s what I’m focusing on doing.”
Just like any other player, Rallo would love to have the opportunity to don an NHL sweater again.
“I want to get back to the NHL and play some more games there,” he said. “That’s always the goal. As long as I’m playing, I want to strive to move up.”
Rallo has been paying attention to the moves the Panthers have made over the summer and is excited by the infusion of youth the franchise plans to bring to San Antonio in the fall.
“When the prospects are as high-quality as the ones that Florida has, that makes for really exciting hockey at our level.”
The Rampage had their most successful season in franchise history last year when they advanced to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, but, like many others within the organization, Rallo is looking for the team to take the next step during the 2012-13 campaign.
“Seeing what Florida’s doing with who they’re signing and the prospects they’re bringing in, I don’t see why [winning the Calder Cup] shouldn’t be the goal,” he said. “We’ve got a great group of young guys coming in. They’ve signed some proven goal scorers at the AHL level as well as the NHL level, and with those signings, they’re expecting us to win so, as players, we should expect to win.”