Tim Thomas accepts PTO offer from Panthers, will join team Tuesday

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Thomas had a .920 save percentage and a 2.36 GAA in 2011-12. (USATSI)
Thomas had a .920 save percentage and a 2.36 GAA in 2011-12. (USATSI)

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Tim Thomas was looking for a return to the NHL and he might get it in Florida.

Last week Panthers GM Dale Tallon said he had offered Thomas a tryout and was awaiting word of whether he would accept. On Monday they announced that Thomas has indeed accepted and will join the team on Tuesday in camp.

Chances are from there, Thomas will likely make the team. That's working under the assumption that his glove hand hasn't slowed to a crawl in his year-long sabbatical and that he can still get down on the ice. The Panthers' goaltending situation is not strong, to put it best.

Young Jacob Markstrom figures to be the starter coming into the season. He struggled last season behind a team that was not good at all but Markstrom posted the best numbers on the team (it's not saying much) with a .901 save percentage and a 3.22 goals against average. His backup, Scott Clemmensen, recently had minor surgery that will keep him out for a couple of weeks but is coming off a terrible season. Hence the desire to bring in a veteran goalie like Thomas.

Even if Thomas has fallen off from the level we last saw him, he should present a massive upgrade for the Panthers in net. However it's fair to wonder if the Panthers should be interested in giving a lot of games to any goalie not named Markstrom. Even if Thomas is his old self they are a long shot for the playoffs and you might as well let the young kids grow. But at the same time it's hard not to take an upgrade for now if you see an opportunity.

"No one works harder than he does," defenseman Brian Campbell, who played with Thomas in Finland during the 2004-05 lockout season, told George Richards of the Miami Herald.

"I enjoyed my time playing with Tim. He's a great goalie, a great battler and a great person. Him coming here is a bonus for us. We feel we have two strong goaltenders here but if you can add a piece like this, it's not going to hurt you."

Bringing in Thomas will likely result in Clemmensen losing his roster spot but should instantly make the Panthers more competitive, or so you would think. That's what the camp tryout is for, to see if Thomas still has it. If he does then look for a one-year deal with a modest salary.

It will probably still be a while before we see Thomas in a game, he has to get his feet wet first. He certainly won't be on the ice Monday when the Panthers play a preseason double-header against the Predators.

 
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