Among the many questions facing the Florida Panthers this offseason, what to do with their goaltending situation could be the most pressing. Last season veterans Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen split most of the ice time until poor play and an injury to Theodore forced the Panthers to go with their young goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom. Jose Theodore is an unrestricted free agent, Markstrom is a restricted free agent and Clemmensen has one more year left on his contract. Here is a quick look at how I see the Panthers’ goalie situation playing out this offseason:
2013 Panther Goalie Stats
While none of Florida’s net minders set the league on fire last season, what jumps out is that Jacob Markstrom outplayed his veteran counterparts, Scott Clemmensen and Jose Theodore. While Markstrom still has a long way to go, he is already the best goaltender on his team and at only 23 years of age, that is no small feat.
So what do the Panthers do? First off, I do not think the Panthers will re-sign unrestricted free agent Jose Theodore. At 36 years old and coming off a torn groin, Theodore may be destined for backup duty but I do not see him filling that role for the Panthers. It always seemed like the Panthers signed Theo to that two year deal, before the 2011-12 season, to serve as a bridge to the Jacob Markstrom era and when Theodore tore his groin in March that era effectively began. It has been reported that Theodore wants to re-sign with Florida but will the Panthers want him back? That depends on how the team feels about Markstrom.
Scott Clemmensen has one year remaining on his contract with the Panthers so I expect him to continue to fill the backup role regardless of who the starter is. Clemmer is a serviceable backup and although his numbers were less than ideal last season, you can usually count on a workmanlike performance whenever he is called upon.
Finally, we have Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom will be a restricted free agent this summer and I am confident that he will be re-signed. Whether or not he will be starting is another question. Florida could conceivably bring back Theodore as the starter and start Markstrom off in the AHL but that situation seems highly unlikely. I think the Panthers will go with Markstrom as their starter this year. He showed enough in his playing time last season and at this point, sending him back to the AHL would only serve to stunt his growth.
We should find out early on in the off-season what the Panthers intend to do. If the Panthers do want Theodore back they will probably sign him right at the start of free agency. If Theodore is not signed right away then it is probably safe to assume that the Panthers are not interested and that they plan on handing the starting job to Jacob Markstrom.
What do you think? Do the Panthers re-sign Jose Theodore? Do you think Jacob Markstrom is ready to be a starter? Do you see Scott Clemmensen being anything other than a backup? Share your thoughts below.