The Florida Panthers are currently grinding through training camp and the preseason in hopes they are truly ready for their first meeting on Oct. 13 against the New York Islanders. The club has made one move that has cemented a goaltender to be on the active roster now and in the future. On Sep. 27, general manager Bill Zito announced the Panthers have signed goaltender Spencer Knight to a three-year contract worth $4.5 million per season.
The signing comes after the 21-year-old posted a 19-9-3 record last season with a save percentage (SV%) of .908 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.79 in 32 appearances. He’s taken the next step in his development.
Will Knight Be the Panthers’ Starter?
The young goaltender was drafted 19th overall back in 2019 by former general manager Dale Tallon. With that in mind, it was clear the front office wanted a new face between the pipes down the line. However, that same season, Tallon went out and signed former Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million deal with an annual average of $10 million per season. He was coming off of arguably the best season of his career, helping sweep the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2019 postseason.
But this experience was not what he signed on for. Through three seasons and 135 games with the Panthers, he’s only eclipsed an SV% above .910, and last season, with a GAA of 2.67, his lowest since he arrived in Sunrise. Granted, the defense in front of him at the time was below average. Still, his stats with Florida are far from the stats he had during his time with the Blue Jackets.
In addition to his performance, his name has come up in trade rumors all summer. However, he has a no-movement clause (NMC), so he would have to waive the clause for any trade to happen. If it does, Florida would save tons of money, even if they were put in a tough position to retain 50% of his salary.
Can Knight Handle the Load?
Knight is still considered by many to be an unproven prospect and may have received this deal too soon as he’s only played in 36 regular-season games across two seasons with the Cats. On the other hand, he has stepped up his game in big moments, including a playoff win in 2021 against the Lightning’s high-octane offense to force Game 6.
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Furthermore, he’s already recorded two shutouts in his young career, which ties Panthers legend Roberto Luongo as the only other goalie to record multiple shutouts as a rookie in a single season. He also holds the organization’s goaltending record for most wins by a rookie with 19. He’s shown flashes of excellence already, and he deserved his contract.
Is It “Knight” Time?
Knight has already shown he can take the reigns as a starter, especially during his time with Boston College. Furthermore, his excellent performance in crucial games also preceded his NHL career, playing in the IIHF goal-medal match with Canada in 2021. Throughout his career, he has shown he was ready for this challenge.
Of course, we will have to see what happens in the coming months. At 34, Bobrovsky is not getting any younger, and his only expires in four years, it’s smart for the organization to start to prepare for a future with Knight. Regardless of what happens down the line, the Panthers have successfully developed a great goaltending prospect and will continue to flourish in Sunrise, Florida for years to come.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!