After attempting to reel in competition between the pipes for the first couple of days of training camp, the Panthers and GM Dale Tallon did just that as Tim Thomas accepted a PTO Monday and the veteran net minder is set to join the club for practice on Tuesday at Saveology.com Iceplex.
With goaltender Scott Clemmensen out for the first three weeks of camp due to a minor procedure on his knee, Florida only had 23-year old goaltender Jacob Markstrom in camp with at least some NHL experience. Markstrom has played in 31 games in his first three professional seasons. That was a cause for concern for the Panthers which prompted them to talk to several free agent goaltenders. After it was all said and done, it was the former Boston Bruin and two-time Vezina Trophy winner (NHL's Best Goaltender) that will be providing competition in net.
"He's a two-time Vezina trophy winner, Conn Smythe trophy winner," said Tallon during the first intermission of Florida's first game of their doubleheader against the Nashville Predators at the BB&T Center. "We need goaltending. We need somebody to help us get to where we need to go and right now it's Tim Thomas.
"He's going to get an opportunity."
Thomas helped Boston capture the Stanley Cup in 2011, picking up the Conn Smythe trophy as the Playoff MVP while going 16-9 with four shutouts and 1.98 goals against average. After posting a 35-19-1 record in 2011-12 with a .920 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average during the 2011-12 season, Thomas stepped away from the game last season. Looking to return after the year hiatus, Tallon doesn't expect any step back from the 39-year old.
"He's in good shape and he's eager to go," said Tallon. "He worked extremely hard all year and mentally and physically he's very strong and he's ready to compete for a starting position here."
"I'm not worried about that at all. I'm not worried about any of that," continued Tallon on Thomas being away from the game. "I think he's got a great pedigree. He's worked hard all his life to get to where he was and he's going to continue to work hard and we've had great discussions and I believe in what he says and I trust him and I think he will be a valuable asset to us."
What Tallon and the Panthers were really impressed with was Thomas wanting to come in, compete, be the No. 1 goaltender and help the club win any way possible.
"That's so important. We want to bring in people that really care and really work hard and show the young guys the way," said Tallon. "He's a prototypical professional that works extremely hard in practice and off the ice and is very dedicated to his profession."
And that's all Tallon cares about. Making the Panthers better and helping the team pick up victories as they look to get back to the playoffs. It all starts Tuesday as Thomas looks to make an enough of an impression to earn a contract.
"Competiton is great and the more competition you have internally, the better off your team will be," said Tallon. "It's wide open. Competition will be the best man win."