The Florida Panthers made their biggest cuts of training camp on Saturday — and lost a young goalie after Sam Montembeault was claimed off waivers by the Montreal Canadiens.
Montembeault had both Spencer Knight and Christopher Gibson ahead of him on the Florida depth chart behind Sergei Bobrovsky.
A native of Bécancour, Quebec — which is located between Quebec City and Montreal — Montembeault was a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2015 and ended up playing in parts of two seasons with Florida.
Monteambeault, who turns 25 later this month, did not play for Florida last season although he did dress for a couple of games.
Carey Price is missing training camp with a knee injury and grabbing Montembeault seems to indicate he is going to miss the start of the season. Jake Allen is Price’s backup and now it looks like he and Montembeault will start the season as the Canadiens two goalies.
Gibson is considered the starter for the Panthers’ AHL team in Charlotte this season so losing Montembeault is not considered something which will not hurt the team in the present but perhaps the future.
The Panthers could also lose Gibson as he needs to be waived to be assigned to Charlotte although it appears the team is gambling that because of his age he probably will not be. They chose to waive Montembeault first knowing he could be claimed.
The other two players Florida placed on waivers, Noah Juulsen and Zac Dalpe, cleared and will be assigned to Charlotte.
Others who were sent to Charlotte camp on Saturday: Serron Noel, Logan Hutsko, Grigori Denisenko, Karch Bachman, Henry Bowlby, Aleksi Heponiemi, Justin Nachbaur, Cole Schwindt, Max Gildon and goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick.
“Geordie (Kinnear) is going to have a nice team down there,” Joel Quenneville said. “There’s going to be competition for ice time knowing half the team will be from Seattle.
“These are guys who we know can play and we want them to play. Some of the young kids didn’t play a lot of games … they’ll get a chance to play. We know we have some guys who can play and can help us and we expect them to be up here and help us at some point.”
Noel, obviously, had a terrific camp and played in Florida’s 6-3 win over the Stars on Friday after he scored the game-tying goal and got the winner in a shootout Wednesday in Dallas.
The Panthers are high on Noel — but want him to get some serious playing time. He’ll get that in Charlotte and, when the Panthers need him, can call him back.
”He needs to play,” coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday morning as the Panthers returned to Coral Springs for a rare workout at the IceDen. “Last year was one where he didn’t play much. He will tell us when it’s the right time. He is one of those guys … everyone loves a big, strong power forward and that’s what he can be.”
The Panthers roster is now at 31 with a number of players out of action.
On Saturday, Carter Verhaeghe was missing as he joined Joe Thornton, Maxim Mamin, John Ludvig, Anton Lundell and Lucas Carlsson as players who were not working with the main group.
Quenneville continues to say none of the injuries are considered serious and said two or three could rejoin practice Monday.
Florida does not open its season until Oct. 14 and will cut their roster down to 23 after its final preseason game next Saturday against the Lightning at FLA Live Arena.
Monteambeault made his debut with the Panthers in 2019 after Roberto Luongo and James Reimer was hurt and finished that season 4-3-2.
When the Panthers signed Bobrovsky in 2019, Montembeault came into camp as the favored backup and won the job over Chris Driedger and started the season with the Panthers.
By late November, he was sent to AHL Springfield and Driedger was recalled — and took over the No. 2 spot for the remainder of his time with the Panthers.
Montembeault did finish the 2019-20 season with the Panthers while Bobrovsky was working his way back from a groin injury, but did not dress in the playoff bubble.
Last year, Driedger was not challenged as the No. 2.