The Florida Panthers enter the offseason with over $13 million (according to CapFriendly’s current lineup) in cap space, but before they dip into the murky pond that is unrestricted free agency frenzy on July 28, they are going to have to make decisions on contributors from last year’s squad who need new deals. Let’s take a look at where the Cats stand with their goaltending as we approach the NHL’s “silly season.”
Unrestricted Free Agents
- Chris Driedger (2020-21 Cap Hit: $850K)
Minor League Goalies
Restricted Free Agents
- Sam Montembeault (2020-21 Cap Hit: $850K)
- Ryan Bednard (2020-21 Cap Hit: $817.5K)
Unrestricted Free Agents
- Philippe Desrosiers (2020-21 Cap Hit: $700K)
Let’s start by saying goodbye to Chris Driedger, who came out of nowhere to put together a stellar two-season run with the Panthers that he will parlay into a new, higher-paying gig with the Seattle Kraken, if they sign him as their expansion choice from Florida, or with a different team in need of his services once July 28 rolls around.
Sticking with the expansion draft, the Cats will need to qualify Sam Montembeault (or re-sign Group 6 UFA Philippe Desrosiers) to be compliant with the rules in regards to the goaltending department.
The easiest path is to qualify Montembeault, who posted a 8-4-1 record, 2.86 GAA and 1 shutout in 13 appearances with the Syracuse Crunch last season. Montembeault now has four years of pro experience under his belt, including 25 NHL appearances, and would slot in as the number one goalie for the Charlotte Checkers if he returns. He’s a good insurance policy to have around in case Spencer Knight isn’t quite ready to be a full-time NHLer.
Former Bowling Green Falcon Ryan Bednard has been impressive over the course of two ECHL campaigns with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Last season, Bednard went 20-6-8 with a 2.43 GAA and .917 save percentage. Look for the Cats to retain the towering 24-year-old with a two-way deal and move him up to Charlotte to share the net with Montembeault. He’s earned it.
The Panthers rewarded Philippe Desrosiers, who spent the entire season the Taxi Squad, by dressing him for the team’s March 3 game against the Dallas Stars, where he backed up Knight and donned an NHL jersey for the first time. The 25-year-old has been a good soldier for the organization, but re-signing him, if Montembeault comes back, would mean pushing Bednard back down to the ECHL, which isn’t the right move. The only way I see a spot for Desrosiers is if the Cats make the unlikely decision to move on from Montembeault.