The Florida Panthers made a splash in the 2019 offseason, as they signed veteran backstop Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million deal. This was expected to fill the hole left by Roberto Luongo, who was headed for retirement. However, two years after signing the Russian netminder, the Panthers still have questions regarding goaltending. This year, they’ve employed Bobrovsky, joined by backup Chris Driedger, and later on, Spencer Knight. However, it was Driedger who ended up stealing the starting role, but after winning game five, he was pulled in favour of Spencer Knight. Named the starter in game six for Florida, he allowed three goals, which saw the Panthers eliminated.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, Driedger is set to officially test the free agent market. Being a turning point for the hockey club, Florida needs to understand their team is going to be a young one and put their trust in Knight’s abilities.
That said, trading Bobrovksy isn’t an option for the Panthers due to the no-movement clause agreed to in his contract. So, what do they do? Well, in my eyes, they have two options.
Following The Leader
The first option, which may be the better one, is to have a 1A-1B goalie situation, as they flip the page on 2020-21. It wouldn’t be a shock to see this happen, as it’s becoming more popular throughout the NHL. This benefits the Panthers in a few ways, one of them being that Bobrovsky has been in a similar situation before back in Columbus when he and Elvin Merzeliskins split the duties for the Blue Jackets. Applying this system, Knight gets more NHL experience, meanwhile, having a seasoned veteran in the fold to share the crease with.
As well, this would allow Florida to give Ryan Bednard some more time in Springfield, given there’s a chance he could be named the team’s starter. Bernard has spent the past two seasons in the ECHL with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. He struggled throughout his rookie year, but bounced back despite a challenging season. With four shutouts and a 19-6-7 record, he also recorded a GAA of 2.46 and a .916 save percentage. Bednard and Samuel Montembeault are both restricted free agents at the end of the year and will likley be re-signed to man the net in Charlotte. That being said, Philippe Desrosiers’ contract is also up, but he didn’t see any action this season, so it’s likely he won’t be in the mix next year for the Panthers.
Have Knight Spend A Year In The AHL
Florida’s second option would be to have Spencer Knight spend 2021-22 down in the AHL. Now, this guarantees that he gets a chunk of the playing time, however, given how well he did in college and the job he did in game four against the Lightning, the AHL isn’t going to do much for him, especially seeing how he faired across his first few NHL games in Sunrise. However, this brings up another issue for the Panthers, who would back up Bobrovsky if Knight is playing in Springfield. This year’s goalie market is nothing compared to what was out there last season and there aren’t any names that would fit what Florida is looking for. If Knight is with the Checkers and the Panthers do go out and sign a backstop, it allows Florida to take advantage of their ECHL affiliate. The way it stands as of right now, their goaltending chart should look like this heading into next season; Sergei Bobrovsky, Spencer Knight and Ryan Bednard.