How Yandle’s buyout and Driedger’s departure impact the Panther’s goaltending situation

Written by WJWhite30

While it is not yet confirmed, the rumor is that Chris Driedger is close to signing a 3-year $10.5 million contract with Seattle. Speculation is that the Kraken will take him and Vatrano in the upcoming expansion draft. While that is not shocking news, I would like to assess how that could potentially impact the goaltending situation for the Florida Panthers.

Driedger made a huge jump and definitely earned the right to fight for a starting position somewhere. Unfortunately, because of Bob’s massive contract, he could not fight for it in Florida. I personally thought Boston would bring him in to work with Swayman while Rask is on the mend from hip surgery, but that is a topic for another day.

In the past 2 seasons, Driedger started 35 games, 12 and 23 respectively. In 2019-20 he posted a 2.05 GAA and .938 SV% and last year he posted a 2.07 GAA and .927 SV%. These are very good numbers and well deserving of a shot at the starter title, even if the sample size is small.

Furthermore, I have made my thoughts and comments about Bobrovsky well known and I do not think he has lived up to his end of the devastating, 10-bananas a year deal. However, I do think there is a lot of potential for him to improve his game and the fault does not lay solely on Bobrovsky. Yes, I will admit that I have been critical, but when you are getting paid that much money to stop the puck, you have to be better than average.

In the past 2 seasons, Bob has started 79 games and won 42 of them. He has a 0.902 SV% and 3.10 GAA as a Panther. Those are average numbers at best and definitely not worth the contract that the Panthers gave him. Especially when you look at Driedger’s stats from the same time frame.

This being said, I do understand how a team tightens up defensively when the backup gets the nod versus your #1 guy. Even the beer league heroes think a little more defensively when they have a sub in net versus their regular tendy.

Additionally, I could understand some struggles as the only real “defensive” or stay-at-home defensemen the Panthers have are Weegar and Gudas. Stralman can no longer keep up with the game. Ekblad and Yandle played as though they are the 4th forward on every line and take an offense first approach. The Panthers do need to tighten up in the defensive zone and I think Zito is making the right moves to help out on the backend. (Zito, read my piece on bringing in Ryan Suter, we can make this work.)

As you read in my previous posting, the Panthers cannot buy out both Yandle and Bob without taking a $10+ million cap hit for the 2022-2023 season. That is a lot of money to pay guys to stay at home. The best scenario is for Bob to play through the next 2 seasons, mentoring Spencer Knight, before Zito gives him the snippity snips – and no I am not talking about a vasectomy.

While Bobrovsky makes $10 AAV, Knight is only at $925K. While almost $11 million per year in goaltending is not ideal, it may workout for a few more seasons. The Yandle buyout will hurt the Cats the most in the 2022-2023 season with a $5+ million cap hit. Fortunately, that is Knight’s last year on his ELC. After the Cats make it through that painful season, the Yandle buyout drops below $2 million and hopefully the NHL salary cap has increased. This would allow the Panthers to buy out Bob and sign Knight to a fair deal.

The alternative is that Bobrovsky sees a young up-and-comer who is gunning for the #1 spot and uses that as motivation to get back to the Vezina caliber goalie he once was. For all the shit I talk on Bobrovsky, he has in the past put together some phenomenal seasons. I would love to see him get back to playing the way he was in Columbus 3 years ago.

Since I do not know Bob personally, I cannot say if he will take the “fuck it, I already got paid” mentality and enjoy collecting a paycheck while cruising on South Beach or if his ego would push him to not lose his job to some young kid who is fresh out of college. I think the Panthers could have a very dynamic duo in net should Bobrovsky choose to fight for the #1 spot, but that will all be about his approach and how he handles the pressure from Spencer Knight. What is to come from this situation, only time will tell!

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