The Florida Panthers goalie situation has suddenly become a topic of intense discussion. The arrival of Tim Thomas on a professional try-out (PTO) has completely scrambled what was originally thought to be one of the easier positions on the Panthers roster to predict.
Before Tim Thomas, the plan was Jacob Markstrom, 23, will get the opportunity to be a full time starter and veteran Scott Clemmensen, 36, will be the backup providing experience and reliability should Markstrom falter. The depth was admittedly thin and after Clemmensen as the next goalie in the Panthers system appeared to be Michael Houser the 21 year old who spent last season in the ECHL with Panthers affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Now that Thomas is with the team, things are not so clear. With Scott Clemmensen set to return to practice on Monday, the Panthers will have a three way goalie competition for the two open spots on the roster. Head coach Kevin Dineen and GM Dale Tallon have made it clear numerous times that no player is penciled in anywhere on the roster and the team they take to Dallas for the season opener will consist of the players who perform best in camp.
This means we could see any combination of Scott Clemmensen, Tim Thomas and Jacob Markstrom, and who the starter will be is completely up in the air. A likely scenario could have Markstrom in the number one spot with Thomas the backup and Clemmensen the odd man out. In this scenario it is not hard to see Thomas slowly getting more playing time as the year wears on and as he plays himself into shape.
Another possibility is, maybe Thomas, who is 39 by the way, just does not have it anymore and the Panthers do not sign him. I do not think this scenario has gotten enough attention. Nobody seems to be acknowledging the unprecedentedness of what Thomas is trying to do. He is coming back at age 39 after sitting out an entire year and people talk about it like he will just step on the ice and magically be the same player that won two Vezina Trophies with the Bruins.
Anyway, who starts in net October 3rd against the Stars is very much a mystery and it is not hard to make a case for either of the three goalies in the running. If I had to place a bet, I would go with Jacob Markstrom, but I would not feel good about it. Let us know what you think in the poll below and voice your opinions in the comments section or get at us on Facebook and Twitter.