Goalie Controversy Brewing?
With three legitimate #1 goalies on its roster, what do the Panthers do with Spencer Knight?
Spencer Knight’s Fast Start in the NHL
Who is Spencer Knight? Only two years removed from the NHL draft when he was taken with the 13th overall pick, Spencer Knight is arguably the best goaltending prospect in the NHL. If you haven’t heard of him yet, take note of his impressive amateur and collegiate resume. In just two years at Boston College, Knight earned a number of accolades, including a top-10 finish in the Hobey Baker Award voting for best collegiate player and a top-3 finish for the Mike Richter Award, given to the best collegiate goaltender. His resume was capped with a 2-0 shutout win over Team Canada at the 2021 World Juniors Tournament.
Making the Jump: While all of this was done at the amateur and collegiate level, many have wondered how he would fare playing amongst the greatest hockey players in the world. In only four starts, Knight has answered the call and is off to a hot start going 4-0-0 in that time. While the sample size is very small and as the league adjusts to finding out the holes in his game, Knight has shown that he is poised and ready for the moment.
When asked by Florida Panthers goaltending legend Roberto Luongo if he was nervous prior to his first start, the calm and cool Knight responded with, “Oh no, I was good.” While it’s still early, it’s safe to say, Knight is indeed very good.
Is there a goalie controversy? With the emergence of Knight, the question then is what do the Panthers do with him in the interim? The Panthers currently sit second in the Central Division behind the season-long, red-hot, Carolina Hurricanes, and they’ve done so largely on the backs of solid goaltending all year long. Chris Driedger emerged as a reliable and steady hand when Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t at his finest and was able to hold the fort down until Bobrovsky regained his form. With the Panthers in a comfortable position to lock in a playoff spot, it gave them the perfect opportunity to give Knight a few starts to see where his game was at in the pro ranks.
And while the Panthers knew they had a gem in Knight, it’s safe to say no one on the Panthers knew he would get off to such a hot start. In his four starts, Knight is currently wielding a .919 save % and a 2.32 GAA. With numbers like these, and with three solid goaltending options and only one net, it’s easy to see the conundrum the Panthers are in at the moment. Despite this, quality goaltending is hard to come by in the NHL and this is a problem that every team would love to have.
Where will Spencer Knight slot in moving forward? While it may be hard to see where Spencer Knight fits in with the Panthers’ plans, it actually may come to a resolution sooner rather than later. The expansion draft for the incoming Seattle Kraken franchise will be taking place on July 21, and it’s likely a given that the Panthers will expose Chris Driedger in the draft. It’s not a certainty that Driedger will be selected by the Kraken, in which case he will remain with the Panthers. If that does happen, look for the Panthers to one of two things.
First: Driedger is on an expiring contract, and they could let him walk for nothing at the end of the season. That would be on par with losing him to Seattle in the expansion draft as the Panthers would get nothing for him in return.
Second: The Panthers could re-sign Driedger to a short bridge deal and stash Knight down in the AHL to give him a few years to refine his game at the pro level. If Driedger isn’t taken in the expansion draft, option two might be the best course of action for Knight’s development as a professional goaltender. Sergei Bobrovsky is still carrying a massive contract for another five years after this season, and giving Knight a few years to develop in the AHL while starting the majority of the games is probably what is best for his development.
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A Question for the Peanut Gallery
What should the Panthers do with Spencer Knight?