My Take: Why the Florida Panthers Should Sign UFA Goaltender Tim Thomas
The Cats received hideous goaltending last season, and have very little experienced big-league talent or depth at the position. Tim Thomas solves this issue.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. He's a bit out there from time to time. But then again so might be your favorite Panther. For all we know Tomas Fleischmann's favorite Star Wars movie may be Attack of the Clones, and he might find The Empire Strikes Back boring. Tomas Kopecky could disagree with all your political stances while finding Grown Ups 2 was amazing. As this boring ad states, NHL players are just like you and me. They do crazy things, have their own political beliefs, and take an entire year off from work while still being paid. Just like you and me.
1. The Panthers goaltending was really, really, really bad in 2013
The Cats allowed around an average of 3.5 goals a game. In fact the team saved only 89.1% of all shots faced, and just 90% at even strength. The current depth chart topper is Jacob Markstrom, who saved 91.2% of even strength shots and has played only 31 career NHL games, while Scott Clemmensen, who finished 76th in the NHL in ESSV% at .879 (the worst player to have played more than 10+ games), and Michael Houser, who hasn't played a full season in the ECHL fill out the position. Comfortable with these guys in net? If you are, come up with a catchy theme for William Nylander and Sam Reinhart. Double points if you stick a Highlander reference with the former.
2. The Panthers don't have a starting goaltender
Yes, Markstrom will likely get the lion's share of starts in 2013-14, but not because he's earned it; it's because he's the best of what's available. Heck, he only played 23 games last season because of an injury to Jose Theodore, and Clemmer forgetting how to stop a puck. So why not have him earn the keys of the franchise and back up a Conn Smythe and Veniza winner? It worked out well for Tuukka Rask. You know, the goaltender for the Eastern Conference Champions this spring.
3. It's Tim Thomas!
Guy has a career .921 save percentage, a Stanley Cup, a Veniza Trophy, and is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL since the lockout. Fun fact; since 07-08, the Flint, Michigan native has never finished with a save percentage below .915 and hasn't had less than three shutouts. Clemmensen hasn't finished a single season with more than two shutouts.
4. The Panthers defensemen need a mentor...that can still skate
Thomas comes with plenty of experience, and was the starting goaltender for the Boston Bruins. He can relate and help develop the young core the front office plans to feed to the wolves. He's ridden the bus in the AHL and ECHL, been demoted despite success in a small sample size, and stared at the end of his career while playing in Europe. What Panther has done all that, and become one of the best players in the league?
Okay, I know some of you have reasons for why he shouldn't be a Panther, or won't, so I'll just quickly address the ones I think you'll come up with.
What happens to Scott Clemmensen?
Who cares? Place him on waivers, if he gets claimed, the team becomes better. If he doesn't, let him play in the AHL until the team needs him. Simple.
Why would he sign here?
How many other teams need a starting goaltender? How many of those teams play in the same division as the Boston Bruins? Need a reason to get "up" for games against the B's? Here ya go.
The Panthers don't have the money
Every day draws closer to the beginning of training camp, and the chances of Thomas being signed by a team that needs a starting goaltender grow slim. If the Panthers need to cut cap space, they can trade assets for picks or cheap depth players, the Panthers can get the cap space, they just need to be smart.
Why not let Jacob Markstrom play 60 games and have him learn from that? It didn't hurt Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick's first season with an above-average save percentage was in 2010-11. The same year Jonathan Bernier was slated to back him up full time. And I'll remind you that before the Kings won the cup thanks to Quick, many thought Bernier was the Kings' future in net. Plus goaltenders peak in their mid-20s and and Markstrom turns 24 in January.
Why should the Panthers' waste a season of Tim Thomas, a potential future hall of famer, if they're still a long shot to make the playoffs?
The same reason the team spent all that money on Scottie Upshall and Ed Jovanovski, to challenge the younger players into earning their spots on the roster (unless they were pick in the early-to-middle first round).
How good will he be after taking a season off?
You know who once took an entire season off? Most of the NHL in 2004–05:
- 2003-04 NHL ESSV%: .927
- 2005-06 NHL ESSV%: .922/
I'm not saying Thomas is going to stop 93% of the shots he faces and sneak the Cats into the playoffs (although if they do, you're all welcome), but at least he'll make the team entertaining. You know, like the Martin days. That was entertaining right?
Any interest in Florida sending out a feeler on Thomas?