From now until the start of training camp on Sept. 22, Florida Hockey Now will profile players who will play a key role for the 2022-23 Florida Panthers.
Today’s Player: Sergei Bobrovsky
What Happened Last Year: After struggling his first two seasons in Sunrise — posting a combined .902/3.10 — Bobrovsky bounced back and played a pivotal role in Florida’s 2021-22 Presidents’ Trophy campaign.
He finished the year 39-7-3 with a .913/2.67, leading the NHL in wins. Bobrovsky played some of his best hockey at home, posting a league-best 26-3-0 record with a .918/2.57.
When it came time for the playoffs, Bobrovsky answered the bell. He went 4-6-0 with a .911/2.70 and was a big reason why the Panthers won their first playoff series since 1996.
His playoff performance was far better than the .841/5.33 he posted in three games last season and comes into the 2022-23 season with the questions that followed him into the prior season mostly answered.
What to Look For at Camp: While it was rumored that the Panthers were heavily shopping Bobrovsky and his $10 million contract this offseason, nothing ever materialized.
That is for multiple reasons (including that the rumors may not have been true in the first place).
For one, teams have paid a premium for cap space all offseason and it would have required the Panthers to both retain a big chunk of cap space and give up significant future assets that they do not have a lot of to trade his $10 million cap hit — especially with four more years left on the deal.
Bobrovsky also holds a no-movement clause for the next two years before it moves to a 16-team no-trade list in July 2024. Even if they were able to find the right trade, Bobrovsky could have vetoed the trade no matter what. It is likely a trade would not happen before then.
With that being said, all signs are pointing to Bobrovsky being the Panthers’ No. 1 goaltender to start the season.
Bob making MOVES 🚫 pic.twitter.com/m5jOQZuHgP
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) May 4, 2022
Questions To Be Answered This Season: With Bobrovsky bouncing back from the drop-off in production from his first two seasons in Florida, the questions are not as loud but they are still there.
Can he repeat his production from last year and return closer to his Vezina-winning form? Will Spencer Knight eventually overtake him and become the starter?
Barring any major changes, Bobrovsky has done enough to secure the opening night net but with the way Knight played down the stretch last year, Florida will have to make a tough decision at some point.
Knight proved that he was capable of being a quality NHL goaltender when given a heavy workload of starts last year and the Panthers would like to build on that.
Bobrovsky will likely have to give the Panthers a reason to keep turning to him — as he did last year — by continuing to play at a high level consistently.
In Their Words: “It’s all of the little things,” Bobrovsky said. “In the hockey game, there’s a small margin of difference, it’s a game of inches, and the same with life overall. All of those little steps and little inches either build you up or they destroy you little by little.”
Overall Outlook: With confidence and a new mindset, Bobrovsky has a good shot at building off of his production from 2021-22. However, one could see his volume of starts going down with the organization trusting more in Knight.
Bobrovsky and Knight had a 53/27 split last year with Knight spending a portion of the season in the AHL. Now that the organization has built more trust in Knight, it could look more like a 45/37 split between the two barring injuries on either side.
As far as Panthers goaltending goes, they cannot go wrong with having either Bobrovsky or Knight in net on any given night. It is just a matter of when Knight becomes the No. 1 guy.
It does seem like Bobrovsky will be the guy for now.