Here is what we know at this time. The owners unanimously voted in favor of the new CBA yesterday. The NHLPA is expected to vote on Saturday and pending their ratification of the CBA, training camps could start as early as Sunday. A 48 game season is expected to begin January 19th and according to TSN’s Bob Mckenzie each team will play 4 games vs. 2 divisional opponents, 5 games vs. the 2 other divisional opponents, and 3 games vs. 10 conference rivals. (Source) A full schedule should be released after the players ratify the new CBA.
While all the finer points of the new season shake out we at The Rat Trick will be taking a closer look at the Panther’s roster position by position. Today we are starting with a preview of what to expect from the Panther’s goalies. Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen should get the lion’s share of the playing time while Jacob Markstrom should step in should either of those two get hurt. In addition we also have to look at the ever present Roberto Luongo rumors.
Jose Theodore (age 36):
Last Year: 53 GP, 22 W, 16 L, 11 OT, .917 SV%, 2.46 GAA
Theodore should be the Panthers number one goaltender again this season. When he played last year he was as steady as they come. You would never expect him to take over a game and steal undeserving wins but at the same time you knew Theodore was going to keep the team in the game stopping all the shots he should and some of the ones he shouldn’t. The big concern with Theodore is injuries. He missed time last season with various injuries and at 36, he is not getting any younger. With the shortened season placing more importance on every single game, Theodore missing an extended amount of time could be trouble for the Panthers. Look for the team to go with a more even game split between Theodore and Clemmensen in an effort to keep both goalies fresh and healthy.
Scott Clemmensen (age 35):
Last Year: 30 GP, 14 W, 6 L, 6 OT, .913 SV%, 2.57 GAA
Celmmensen saw a lot of ice time last season, partially because Theodore was hurt at times, but also partially because Clemmensen played very well when given the
chance. After missing the early part of last season Clemmensen returned from injury and performed at a level very similar to the Panthers starting goaltender Jose Theodore. Clemmensen was even given a couple of playoff startsin last years series against his former team the New Jersey Devils. Again in an effort to keep both of their aging goaltenders healthy, look for the Panthers to go with an approximately 50-50 playing time model. Barring injuries, I could see Theodore making about 28 starts and Clemmensen getting on the ice for about 20 games. Head coach Kevin Dineen has stressed many times that the team will go with what ever goaltender has the hot hand so if either Clemmensen or Theodore are playing exceptionally better than the other, look for the playing time to adjust accordingly.
Jacob Markstrom (age 22):
Last year: 7 GP, 2 W, 4 L, 1 OT, .923 Sv%, 2.66 GAA
Called up by the Panthers early last season as an injury stopgap, Markstrom gave fans a taste of what the future holds for this player. His most impressive game came on October 24th in Montreal when he lead the Panthers to a 2-1 victory. Markstrom stopped 40 out of the 41 shots he faced and it was one of those games where one teams goalie puts the team on his back and steals a win. It was nice to see what the kid could do in the pros, but once Theodore and Clemmensen
returned, Markstrom was sent back to the Panthers AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage where he played out the rest of his season. Markstrom has been playing for the Rampage throughout the lockout and has put up a save percentage of .917 and a GAA of 2.66 in the 24 games he has played. (Source) It looks as if the Panthers organization would rather keep Markstrom in the minors this season which seems like a very reasonable move. There is no reason to rush his development especially when the Panthers have two capable goaltenders already. However, I do believe that it would be over optimistic to think that the Panthers will get through the entire season without any injuries to Theodore and Clemmensen. Both are on the wrong side of 35 and at that age, injuries simply come with the territory. I believe Markstrom will end up making 5-10 starts because of injuries. Just enough time to get Panthers fans salivating at the thought of the future.
Roberto Luongo Rumors:
Luongo spends his off-season is Miami, he has played for the Panthers in the past, and he has already stated a desire to move on from the Vancouver Canucks. Because of all this, there have been persistent rumors that Luongo may head to the Florida Panthers. The rumors have cooled down recently and it is looking more and more like the Panthers will not trade for Luongo. The Maples Leafs seem to still be interested while the Flyers have been popping up in rumors as well. I personally believe that Luongo will end up with Toronto. I think Toronto’s recent firing of GM Brian Burke had something to do with his inability to trade for Luongo.
It really should not be a shock to the Panther fans if the Panthers do not trade for Luongo and personally I have been hoping that they do not. Based off his play last season, he was only marginally better than the combination of Theodore and Clemmensen. Luongo’s goals against average was 2.41 compared to Theodore’s 2.46 and Clemmensens 2.57. Luongo is due $6.7 million this season and is a cap hit of $5.3 million this upcoming season and every season after until 2021. (Source) Do the Panther’s really need to be paying so much for Luongo? No! Especially when Theodore and Clemmensen offer a similar level of production and their combined cap hit for this season is only $2.7 million! (Source) With Markstrom waiting in the wings, it makes no sense for the Panthers to trade for Luongo and hopefully GM Dale Tallon realizes this and the Panthers stand pat.