The Florida Panthers have signed star goaltender prospect Spencer Knight to a three-year entry-level contract. With Boston College’s departure from the NCAA Hockey Tournament, Knight seems to be bound to the Panthers’ taxi squad.
With Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger both on the Panthers’ active roster, the team would need to make a move to accommodate their new 19-year-old goaltender.
Driedger seems to likely be the odd man out, but what are the Panthers getting in Knight? What kind of packages would the Panthers explore? There are a lot of questions about this move, but they all have answers.
What Are the Panthers Getting With Knight?
Knight was, simply put, the most dominant goaltender in college hockey this past season. He finished the season with a 16-4-1 record, a .932 save percentage (SV%), and a 2.18 goals-against average (GAA), being named a finalist for the Mike Richter Award in the process.
Coupling his dominant college season with his spectacular World Junior Championship run, where he led Team USA to a gold medal, totaling a 5-1-0 record, a .940 SV%, and a 1.63 GAA, the Panthers know exactly what they have here.
Knight is the most NHL-ready goaltending prospect we’ve seen since Andrei Vasilevskiy – yes, Vezina Trophy winner Vasilevskiy who just won the Stanley Cup last season. The goaltender we now know as the best netminder in the NHL joined the Tampa Bay Lightning at the age of 20 and started 13 games in 2014-15. In those 13 games, Vasilevskiy put up a 7-5-1 record with a .918 SV% and a 2.36 GAA.
With Knight’s 20th birthday on the horizon (April 19) and his situation looking eerily similar to Vasilevskiy’s, it’s not farfetched to think that Knight could replicate the success that the goaltender that resides just 250 miles away.
What This Means for the Panthers
This puts the Panthers in a very favorable position heading into the NHL Trade Deadline on April 12, as they already have a backup goaltender who could end up being a starter on some teams: Driedger.
Driedger currently has a record of 9-4-2 with a .927 SV% and a 2.19 GAA, numbers that rank in the top 10 in the NHL this season.
With Bobrovsky in year two of a seven-year, $70 million contract and Knight possibly being an option to back him up, Driedger now becomes expendable, and there are a ton of teams that would be willing to spend to acquire him.
The move could also work wonders for the Panthers, who have a hole at the second line center position and are now missing their top defenseman, Aaron Ekblad, for the rest of the season.
One team that could be very much in play for Driedger’s services is the Philadelphia Flyers, who are currently three points out of a playoff spot in the Massmutual East Division despite their horrible goaltending.
Carter Hart, who was supposed to be one of the most promising young goaltenders in the league, is positing a horrid 8-9-3 record with an .869 SV % and a 4.04 GAA. His backup, Brian Elliott, is posting a pedestrian 9-4-1 record with an .893 SV% and a 2.84 GAA.
With one of the best goaltenders in the league now seemingly available, the Flyers could become an option to give up a package to acquire him, and there are a lot of routes the Panthers could go while negotiating the trade.
They could look to bolster their roster for the future and acquiring the Flyers’ first-round pick in hopes that they stay out of the playoff race in the East Division and get a premium lottery pick, or they could look to acquire a piece from the Flyers’ roster.
A name like Erik Gustafsson comes to mind, an expiring UFA defenseman the Panthers could acquire to fill the hole that Ekblad has left.
He’s not going to fully replace Ekblad’s production, but he would be a nice stop-gap guy to acquire while the hole is fresh. He has one goal and 10 points in 23 games this season with an even plus/minus.
Another option the Cats could explore is Nolan Patrick, the Flyers’ second-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Patrick hasn’t panned out for the Flyers and is about to become an RFA after the season. With just seven points on the season, the Flyers could decide that it’s time to fill a positional need and end the failed experiment.
While other potential teams, like the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues, could be in play for Driedger, the Panthers are in a premium spot right now. They can sell off one of their three goaltenders and still have a top goaltending tandem in the NHL with the addition of Knight.
Colby Guy is a writer for the Florida Panthers department here at THW. He’s a senior at Florida Atlantic University and currently serves as a football contributor, social media contributor and photographer for FAU Owls Nest.
Previously, Colby has written for FanSided as a New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators writer. He also served as Editor-In-Chief for FAU’s University Press. You can find him on Twitter at @ColbyDGuy.