With news the Florida Panthers have signed star goalie prospect Spencer Knight to the organization, there are questions related to the status of current backup Chris Driedger. A player who has exploded with an incredible season, if Driedger becomes available in trade, there will be plenty of teams ready and willing to make an offer. In fact, it sounds like that has already happened.
At the age of 26, Driedger has finally broken out in the NHL and become a 1B to a struggling 1A in $10 million netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. But, because the team signed Knight, the Panthers could lose Driedger for nothing this off-season as an unrestricted free agent.
Both sides had talked about an extension, but the belief is that things will change with Knight now in the mix. Other teams are picking up on the fact that Driedger could become available and before he tests the market, would like to talk with Florida about a trade. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that as soon as Knight’s contract was announced, a number of rival GMs reached out to Florida’s Bill Zito to inquire about Driedger’s availability. LeBrun even noted that some teams made trade offers on the spot.
For now, Zito has told other teams that he has not made a decision on Driedger just yet. Because the Panthers are in a playoff spot and have a chance to win a Central Division title, subtracting Driedger from that equation might not make sense.
The Current Run or the Better Return?
The Panthers will need to decide what to do here in the next week. If they keep Driedger, they give themselves a better shot at a Stanley Cup this season. If they move him, they’ll maximize the value on any return by selling him to a team desperate for goaltending help and looking for an inexpensive option before the deadline.
The best bet for the Panthers might be to try and convince the goaltender that he’s not an afterthought just because Knight has been signed. If Zito can convince him to sign a contract or stick it out with the Panthers for another year or two, he could up his value and then be moved.
It’s a good problem for the Panthers to have, even if they could wind up making a poor decision.
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