The Florida Panthers have a problem in nets, a problem that every team in the NHL wishes they had. Their problem is that their prospect goaltender is NHL ready before they thought he would be. Top goaltending prospect Jacob Markstrom has played in just five games this season but he has played incredibly well posting a 2.05 GAA and a .940 save percentage.
The problem for Florida is not that Markstrom is playing incredibly well, the team expected him to be their goaltender of the future. They simply didn’t expect their future to be now, and because of this they have two NHL caliber goalies already lined up for playing time this season. The only reason Markstrom was called up to the big club was because of an injury to backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen.
But Clemmensen is on the mend and scheduled to return within the next few weeks, and when he returns the Panthers will face a difficult decision. With three goaltenders biding for two positions the Panthers have a number of options on how to solve their goalie logjam.
The first, and most likely, would be to send Markstrom back down to the AHL and let him continue to gain starting experience, yet why hold back a top prospect if they have shown they are ready to play in the NHL.
The second would be to move Theodore or Clemmensen to a team in need of a tender. Clemmensen is the most likely, of the two, to be dealt and carries a 1.2M cap hit for this season and is simply a rental due to his impending UFA status at the end of this season.
Over the past two seasons in Florida Clemmensen has been a solid backup goaltender posting a GAA of 2.91 and 2.62 respectfully along with a .912 and .911 save percentage. Numbers that don’t exactly scream elite goaltender but if a team is in need of a veteran backup then Clemmensen will fit perfectly.
The asking price for Clemmensen will likely not be high with the Panthers likely looking to get a mid-level prospects or mid-round draft pick in return for Clemmensen.
Theodore on the other hand has been solid this year and is the better of the two tenders. Despite bouncing around from team to team over the past few year Theodore has show that he is capable of being a backup goalie that can share a heavy workload with another tender, something that would fit perfectly with what the Panthers will need if they want to bring along Markstrom.
Because Theodore fits well with what the Panthers currently need, trading him seems very unlikely. Yet, with Dave Tallon running the show you can never rule out any Panthers being traded, even if Tallon was the one that signed Theodore this off-season.
If Theodore were to be traded the asking price would be slightly higher than Clemmensen, with a mid-round pick or mid-level prospect coming to back to Florida.
In the end, moving a goalie at this point in the season would be difficult, as the Panthers may have to wait until an injury strikes another team. If that does happen, expect the rumor mill to heat up in Florida as they will likely be pushing to get rid of one of their tenders.
Do you think the Panthers should give Markstrom a chance or send him back to the minors for more seasoning???
Next up.....Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings
All salary cap info courtesy of CapGeek.com