Spencer Knight could be part of an open competition to be the starting goalie for the Florida Panthers next season.
The 20-year-old started the final two games for the Panthers in their Stanley Cup First Round loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sergei Bobrovsky started Game 1 and Game 4 in the series. Chris Driedger started Game 2 and Game 3.
“I think I can speak for [coach Joel Quenneville], the one thing that we’ve been trying to work towards is best players play,” general manager Bill Zito said Wednesday. “On any given night, ‘Q’ is going to trust the lineup and he’s said this time and time again, ‘I’m going to try to win hockey games.’ There’s a lot of factors that go into many things, but we’re going to get with the goaltending department, and we’ll figure it out.”
Bobrovsky was a healthy scratch for Knight’s two playoff starts. He is entering the third season of the seven-year, $70 million contract ($10 million average annual value) he signed as a free agent July 1, 2019. Knight, Florida’s first-round selection (No. 13) in the 2019 NHL Draft, went 4-0-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in four regular-season games (three starts). Knight was 1-1 in the playoffs, allowing four goals on 60 shots (.933 save percentage).
Driedger can become an unrestricted free agent July 28. The 27-year-old led the Panthers with a 2.07 GAA, a .927 save percentage and three shutouts in 23 games during the regular season.
Bobrovsky, who has twice won the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender in the NHL, had a 2.91 GAA and a .906 save percentage in 31 games (30 starts). His GAA and save percentage in his two seasons with the Panthers are his two worst since 2011-12, when he was in his second NHL season with the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I can’t sit here and tell you specifically what the future is going to hold [with our goalies], but we’re going to review everything thoroughly and make some decisions,” Zito said.
The Panthers plan to have those discussions soon, which will involve Zito, Quenneville, goaltending coach Robb Tallas and the team’s new goaltending department headed by special advisor to the general manager Roberto Luongo, who is in Latvia serving as GM for Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Championship.
Canada plays Russia in the quarterfinals Thursday. The tournament ends Sunday.
“When [Luongo] gets back, we’ll sit down … and decide on our strategy for the goaltending for next year,” Zito said. “I thought Spencer did a great job and I thought there were a lot of highlights to ‘Bob’s’ season as well. I think there were areas where he would like to improve upon, but also he had some bright spots too. And also Chris.”
Quenneville praised Bobrovsky for how he dealt with being a healthy scratch in the playoffs.
“He handled it like a pro,” Quenneville said Monday. “Commend him in a tough situation that he would just move [on] and be a good teammate. He knew he was getting himself ready to come in as soon as possible. In talking with him going forward as well, it was a situation where he wants to play, but I think he has an understanding of the situation we have now. We’ll sort the goalie stuff out over the course of the summer.”