SUNRISE, Fla. – Tim Thomas wanted back in the NHL. The Florida Panthers wanted goaltending help.
It might be a perfect match.
The two-time Vezina Trophy winner agreed to a tryout deal with the Panthers on Monday, nearly a year and a half removed from his last game in the NHL. Thomas will be on the ice with Florida for practice Tuesday, and Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said his talks with the star of Boston’s run to the 2011 Stanley Cup convinced him that the move was right.
“He really wants to play and he really wants to lead and he really wants to be the starter and he wants to win and he wants to win now,” Tallon said Monday while the Panthers faced Nashville in a preseason doubleheader. “I was very impressed with him. His attitude is terrific. I liked everything that he had to say and I liked his approach. We try to strive to get better every day and I think a good Tim Thomas makes us a better team.”
Thomas is expected to address reporters Tuesday, team officials said.
Florida’s projected starter in goal is Jacob Markstrom, the 23-year-old Swede who went 8-14-1 with a 3.22 goals-against average last season. Markstrom’s GAA was tops on the Panthers—but just 44th in the NHL among regular goalies.
So with Markstrom’s relative level of inexperience—he’s made only 29 NHL starts—plus the departure of free agent Jose Theodore and veteran Scott Clemmensen needing at least a couple more weeks to recover from knee surgery, the Panthers made it known they wanted some help.
“He’s a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, Conn Smythe Trophy winner and we need goaltending,” Tallon said. “We need somebody to help us get to where we need to go. Right now, it’s Tim Thomas. … The more competition you have for spots internally, the better off your team will be. It’s a wide-open competition. Let the best man win.”
In parts of eight NHL seasons, Thomas has a 2.48 goals-against average, stopping just over 92 per cent of the shots he has faced.
Thomas wrote on his Facebook page in 2012 that he was taking a season off from hockey to focus on “friends, family and faith.” He also made news by not joining the Bruins when they visited the White House in celebration of their Stanley Cup victory, saying he chose to skip the event because the “federal government has grown out of control.”
Tallon said he was not worried about Thomas’ layoff or any other on-ice issue.
“He’s in good shape and he’s eager to go,” Tallon said. “He worked extremely hard all year. Mentally and physically, he’s very strong and he’s ready to compete for a starting position here.”