Panthers and Thomas – The Perfect Match?
From years in the European wilderness to winning a Stanley Cup and his controversial absence from the traditional White House reception, Tim Thomas has one of the most interesting and varied careers in hockey.
Now, after a year long sabbatical, the former Team USA puck stopper is vying for a spot with the Florida Panthers; after the sunshine state franchise gave the 39-year old a professional try out contract.
If Thomas still has *it*, this could be the perfect match up.
For Thomas it is a shot at the NHL again. After his controversial separation from the Bruins, the veteran netminder seemed to have few options available after it was announced he wanted to play in ‘The Show’ again.
An ageing netminder who missed an entire (albeit shortened) season with more baggage (either real or ‘suggested’) than many would care to take a risk on. Few would even consider him for the back up role, much less for a starting role – which it was implied he was seeking.
And yet here he is.
The opportunity before him gives him a fighting chance at a starting role, in a market which is mainly out of the spotlight but bursting with prospects who would benefit from the presence of another fierce competitor and Cup winner.
Whilst Jacob Markstrom is seen to be the future of Panthers goaltending, the big Swede is still learning his craft and was bereft of some much needed dependable veteran support last season, as Scott Clemmensen and Jose Theodore endured their own ‘wobbles’.
Former Hart Trophy winner Theodore is an unrestricted free agent whilst Clemmensen is 36, heading in to the final year of his contract and does not necessarily inspire confidence in a team that could really use a shot in the arm if it is to reach the post season again.
Of course there are many question marks. No one knows how easily Thomas will be able to step back in at the highest level of the game, if at all. Or if his salary expectations will fit in with the Panthers business model. Or even if the two parties will ‘click’ and both will want to get a permanent deal done.
And the elephant in the room remains Thomas’s ‘political views’. The previously mentioned absence from the Bruins Presidential reception opened a whole can of worms, which are still wriggling now.
Whilst it will be close to impossible to avoid any and all questions on the subject, the Panthers lowly stature would help keep such instances to a minimum in the grand scheme of things. (One can only imagine the circus that would have followed Thomas in to a larger market)
If Thomas and the Panthers do reach an agreement, and can address ‘the issues’ early on then it could be a fruitful relationship for all.
For the next few days at least, these eyes will be fixed on Florida.