Florida Panthers: When Will We See Samuel Montembeault?

LAVAL, QC, CANADA - OCTOBER 19: Sam Montembeault #33 of the Springfield Thunderbirds makes a pad save against the Laval Rocket at Place Bell on October 19, 2018 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC, CANADA - OCTOBER 19: Sam Montembeault #33 of the Springfield Thunderbirds makes a pad save against the Laval Rocket at Place Bell on October 19, 2018 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images) /

Goaltending has remained a major issue for the Florida Panthers for a while now. But even so, they’ve yet to find a replacement for Roberto Luongo.

It’s been a common theme for the past few years now, and in case you haven’t guessed what I’m speaking towards, I’m saying that without Roberto Luongo in net, the Florida Panthers are essentially a basement dweller.

That’s not to say that they’re miles better when Luongo is guarding the crease. But more often than not, there’s a better chance that the Cats pull through and hang around in the standings when Luongo is healthy and playing in goal.

Unfortunately, that isn’t quite good enough in today’s league, which often leaves you hanging around a few points back of the final wild-card spot, which essentially lands you a decent-mediocre pick in the draft. Not the ideal situation you (or any) team would like to be in.

Regardless, though, this season was supposed to be the year where the Panthers were going to make the leap into the playoffs and potentially come away with a surprise or even two.

But based on their play through the first half of the season, I think we can all agree that this team just hasn’t looked or even played like a playoff team.

And what’s most frustrating about all of this is the talent that we have. It’s not like we don’t own any talent, because we do. But unfortunately, we either waste it or we fail to utilize it properly in the right scenario or time.

More specifically, what’s been the most disappointing is the lack of goaltending experimentation we’ve seen in net. Because outside of Roberto Luongo (No. 1), James Reimer (backup), and Michael Hutchinson (No. 3), the Panthers have yet to solve their mid-life crisis in goal.

It seems like GM Dale Tallon has no real solution to finding the successor to Roberto Luongo. At this current point of the season, seeking the external option just may be too hard to navigate.

Other organizations aren’t going to be willing to part ways with a young goaltender in their system, let alone one that’s either in a starting or backup role. That’s why the best time to acquire such a netminder would be over the summer during the offseason.

Yes, Tallon did sign goaltender Michael Hutchinson to a short-term deal, but in all honesty, that signing was purely just a replacement for the departing Harri Sateri.

Of course, the signing was just fine, and it gave the Springfield Thunderbirds an experienced AHL netminder who could start in goal during the season. But again, in all honesty, Hutchinson doesn’t serve as Luongo’s future replacement and he’s just not an NHL-level goaltender.

But seeing that the external option is not only difficult to navigate but could come at a hefty price, the Panthers could look internally in their system and find 22-year-old Samuel Montembeault waiting patiently for his chance.

Yes, Montembeault may be young and raw, but the Cats have yet to give the kid a shot. I mean, all you have to do is look back at the previous preseason and notice that the Panthers didn’t even give the youngster a look.

If there was ever a chance or opportunity to see what he had then, the preseason games offered the Canadian native the perfect platform to display his skills and showings. But instead, the Panthers opted to go with Hutchinson, Reimer, and a bit of Luongo.

It’s troubling to see this, as the Panthers recognize that they face a dilemma in net, yet fail to even give their best goalie prospect a look in preseason action.

Most NHL clubs do give their goaltending prospects a chance in exhibition, which is essentially the platform and time to see a youngster play against other NHL clubs in games that are essentially worthless in standing.

But until the Panthers learn this, they’ll be too stuck trying to find their goalie for the future. And even if they didn’t want to shell out the money or assets for one outside the organization, all they have to do is look at their best goaltending prospect in the farm.

In the minors this year, Montembeault has looked fairly solid for the Springfield Thunderbirds so far. In 19 games played, he’s recorded a 2.76 GAA, followed by a .911 SV%.

His counterpart, Michael Hutchinson, who’s played in only 8 AHL games, holds a 3.33 GAA and a .906 SV%. In the NHL, however, the Ontario native has suited in 4 games, displaying a 4.18 GAA and a .839 SV%.

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It may still be early in the year, but it seems like Montembeault is trending upwards, while Hutchinson is only trending downwards in play.

How about James Reimer (Florida’s official backup)? In 20 games this year, Reimer has posted a not-so-stellar GAA of 3.45 and a SV% of .888. Not exactly the kind of numbers you’re looking for out of your backup.

With Reimer’s play now starting to head downhill, while Hutchinson closely follows, you’re now technically out a backup and third-string netminder.

And because of that, we can now conclude that the time to see Sam Montembeault is certainly now. He won’t only serve as a temporary backup for the ever-so-struggling Reimer, but he could perhaps just be the future in goal for the Florida Panthers.

After this season, Reimer has a couple of years left on his deal, while Hutchinson hits the open market after this year. If the Panthers are smart, they ditch Michael Hutchinson and find a way to move Reimer’s contract to make way for what could be the Panthers’ future in goal: 22-year-old Sam Montembeault.

Because in the end, you’ll never know what Montembeault could offer if you don’t present him the chance to show his worth. Even if that means giving him some time in preseason action.

Next. Analyzing the Cats Through the 3rd Week of December. dark

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