Eyebrows raised this morning when the Florida Panthers announced presumptive backup netminder Spencer Knight would start the 2023-24 campaign with AHL Charlotte. However, head coach Paul Maurice said today it’s not a performance-related demotion.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Knight missed the last two months of the regular season and all of the Panthers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final after entering the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, which he later said was to get treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). After missing significant time, Knight still managed to churn out an incredibly strong postseason performance – one that influenced the organization to want to give him a chance as a true starter out of the gate this season in order to maintain his positive momentum. “This was something we looked at from the start (of training camp),” Maurice told NHL.com. “He’s made great progress in his program. He feels good, he looked fantastic in training camp. But we need to put him in kind of a No. 1 position, a No. 1 role, and then run his program and work on what he’s been working on. But he’s been good.” The 22-year-old is beginning the first season of a three-year deal carrying a $4.5MM cap hit, meaning he’ll still carry a significant cap penalty while in the AHL, as that’s far above the buriable threshold – $3.35MM, to be exact. Veteran Anthony Stolarz will sit behind undisputed starter Sergei Bobrovsky to start the season after the latter guided Florida to its second Stanley Cup Final in franchise history last season.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division today:
- One of the surprise rookies of training camps leaguewide has been Boston Bruins center Matthew Poitras, just one season removed from going off the board at 54th overall at the 2022 NHL Draft. He’s played so well, in fact, that the 19-year-old may just have an inside track to make the team out of camp. As rosters continue to get trimmed, Bruins independent reporter Joe Haggerty noted Poitras continued to stay with the main group in practice today, centering a prospective third line between Trent Frederic and Morgan Geekie. That’s a notable development for Poitras, as he’s impressed enough to push Geekie, the team’s free-agent signing that they expected to fill a third-line hole, out to the wing. The Bruins can still defer the start of his entry-level contract to 2024-25 if he plays less than ten games before Boston re-assigns him to the OHL’s Guelph Storm.
- After battling an upper-body injury throughout the last week, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman John Klingberg will be ready for the team’s season-opening contest against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, head coach Sheldon Keefe tells NHL.com’s Dave McCarthy. Klingberg, the team’s key free agency addition to their top four on defense, says he feels good enough to play in tomorrow’s preseason finale against the Detroit Red Wings but that he’s “going to listen to the doctors, I think they’re smart enough to know.” The veteran 31-year-old power-play quarterback is expected to see reps on the team’s top man-advantage unit to start the season, allowing longtime Leaf Morgan Rielly to help bolster the second power-play unit.