Along with the news that veteran Scott Clemmensen will miss the next three weeks after undergoing a minor knee surgery, comes the speculation that the Florida Panthers may be in the market for a goalie. As it stands now, the Panthers have 23 year old Jacob Markstrom at the top of the depth chart followed by either Michael Houser, who played with the team’s ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones last season, and Rob Madore, 25, who impressed in a tryout during the Panthers rookie camp last weekend.
Needless to say, those options do not inspire much hope in Panther fans, and it seems like the organization feels the same way. General manager Dale Tallon spoke to reporters Sunday making it clear that the team will be pursuing any and all options to improve.
“There will be a lot of transactions during this training camp,” Tallon said, “We’re looking at every possibility, the waiver wire, trades, free agents, whatever we can do to improve.”
Throughout the offseason, the Panthers have been rumored to be pursuing the likes of Tim Thomas or Ilya Bryzgalov but it now appears that the team would prefer to go after a cheaper, less flashy veteran to provide a little depth in net. One name that has been thrown around? Rick DiPietro.
Not too long ago, cheap and unflashy would not be words used to describe Rick DiPietro. The former first overall pick in the draft was awarded a 15 year, $67 million dollar contract by the Islanders prior to the 2006-07 season, and his rapidly eroding play made the contract, and the Islanders organization in general, the laughing stock of the league.
DiPietro spent most of last year playing for the Islanders’ minor league affiliate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. While with the Tigers, he played in 18 games going 9-9 and finishing the year with a 2.93 GAA and a .893 save percentage. Not exactly stellar numbers for the 31 year old, and after the season wrapped up, the Islanders used their compliance buyout on his contract thus making him a free agent.
The injury to Scott Clemmensen, not to mention his age, 36, and recent struggles to stay healthy, has brought to light the Panthers need for some goaltending depth. Brining in a player like DiPietro could work for both sides. The Panthers are a team in desperate need of a goalie, and DiPietro is a goalie in desperate need of a team.
I think signing DiPietro would be a low-risk, high reward move for the Florida Panthers. He could be signed at a very low cost to a short one or two year contract. If Clemmensen’s injury issues persist, he would make a perfect back up to Markstrom and there is still the chance that at 31, DiPietro could tap into some of the talent and ability that made him a number one draft pick way back in 2000. If Markstrom struggles or gets injured, DiPietro would absolutely be a better option than players like Houser or Madore, both of whom have zero NHL experience.
I think the worst case scenario for a DiPietro signing would not even be all that bad. If he is a complete disaster, the Panthers could keep him in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage or they could let him go and eat his small contract. While the Panthers would not have to put much on the line to bring him in, for DiPietro, he would be playing for a chance to revive a career that has veered astoundingly off the tracks. That means he will be motivated and willing to play whatever role is needed to assure a spot on an NHL roster.
Personally, I cannot see how signing DiPietro would negatively affect the team. He has the potential to help add depth to the position and in a worst case scenario he would be nothing less than a non-factor. Let us know what you think in the poll below, and share your thoughts in the comments section or get at us on Facebook and Twitter @FansidedTheRat.