Panthers Have Potential Veteran 3rd String Goalie with Hammond

The Florida Panthers have a pretty solid goaltending tandem with Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight. The veteran leadership in Bobrovsky was tied with Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasivelesky in the league in wins last regular season with 39. The youth in Knight took the next step in his development with a 2.79 goals-against average (GAA) and 19 wins. However, after the final game of last season against the Montreal Canadiens, the need for a potential third-string goaltender came to a head after then goaltender Jonas Johansson let in 10 goals that night. Granted, Florida was resting players that night, but that is not a good look for any goaltender. With that in mind, general manager Bill Zito signed former New Jersey Devils goaltender Andrew Hammond to a professional tryout (PTO) in an attempt to get some veteran presence as a third option.

The “Hamburglar’s” Rise to Fame

Signed as an undrafted free agent in March 2013 by the Ottawa Senators, Hammond’s glorious moment would come in the 2014-15 season after both their starter in Craig Andersson and their backup Robin Lehner went down with injuries. That season, he dressed for 24 games with the Sens and won 20 of them with a GAA of 1.79 and a save percentage (SV%) of .944. That season, he started in two playoff games. However, he lost both starts with a GAA of 3.44 and a SV% of .914.

Andrew Hammond
Andrew Hammond looks to crack the Florida Panthers roster on a professional try out. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The following season did not have the same magic as his first season did as he had. He played in just as many games as the previous year, but only won seven games with a GAA of 2.65 and a SV% of .914. After playing six more games with the Senators in the 2016-17 season, he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. There, he was featured in three playoff games but received credit for one win and one loss. Afterwards, he would not see the ice in the NHL for four years despite signing for a backup role with the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres on one-year deals.

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In the 2021-22 season, he found his way back to the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens after being traded to them from Minnesota on Feb. 12, 2022. He dressed for three games, winning all three and finished with a GAA of 2.40 and a SV% of .920. At that deadline, he was dealt to the New Jersey Devils, where he played in just seven games, collecting one win. Although his being on the roster is not guaranteed, he brings value to the team even if his time here is short.

If Hammond Makes the Roster, He’s Immediately an Upgrade Over Their Last Third Goalie

The Panthers previous third goaltender in Johannson started in only two games for the team last season, and they both got out of hand. In his first Panther start on Feb. 24 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he allowed five goals and finished with a .815 SV%. In his second and final start with Florida on April 29 against the Canadiens, he let in a whopping 10 goals. In his defense, most of the starters were not featured in this game, but letting in that many against arguably one of the worst in the league is not a good look.

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Although Hammond hasn’t played his best either, his effectiveness in needed situations and veteran presence has been shown throughout his career. It would be great to have him if something bad were to happen with Bobrovsky or Knight.

Hammond Has Seen it All and Could Pass Down Valuable Lessons to Knight

As shown previously, Hammond has been put through the grinder throughout his entire professional career by being bounced around in the American Hockey League (AHL) and NHL. In an attempt to help Knight avoid any slopes in his career, he can pass down his stories, both as a lesson and a warning. Knight has clearly taken the next step in development, but an extra teacher would not be any harm.

If He Gets a Contract, Hammond Can Be Great in Charlotte

Assuming he makes the cut, he’s more than likely gonna be spending most of his days in Charlotte, North Carolina with the Checkers in the AHL. With the experience he has in both leagues, he can easily fill in as a key player for the Checkers while also helping the younger goaltenders down there. It could be a great situation to keep him playing.

Will Hammond Crack the Roster?

As previously mentioned, Hammond has quite the resume that easily got him his PTO with Florida. But if he passes his test, Zito may have his hands slightly tied due to the fact that he’s now over $3.3 million above the cap. But, the simple idea of adding him to the roster is beneficial to both the Panthers and their AHL affiliate. In addition, it shows that Zito is looking at ways to get better without breaking the bank too much, even after the trade for Matthew Tkachuk. However, until Hammond hits the ice in training camp next month, this is all pure speculation.