Florida Panthers, Sergei Bobrovsky commit to biggest overpayment of free agency
Bobrovsky, 30, becomes the league's second-highest paid goaltender
On the opening day of NHL free agency Monday, Bobrovsky agreed to a $70 million deal with the Panthers. His $10 million annual cap hit makes him the second-highest paid goalie in the league, behind only Carey Price ($10.5 million).
The Panthers desperately need goaltending, especially following last week's Roberto Luongo retirement, and Bobrovsky is arguably the best goaltender on this year's free agent market. The nine-year veteran has twice won the Vezina as the league's best goaltender.
Florida hopes that adding the Russian netminder will bring some stability between the pipes as they look to get over the hump. The Panthers have a solid core in place and added a highly respected coach in Joel Quenneville this offseason, but they needed to address the goaltender position after finishing last season with the second-worst team save percentage (.891) in the league.
Bobrovsky is coming off a season in which he recorded a .913 save percentage with a 2.58 goals against average and a league-leading nine shutouts.
The fit is certainly there, but the level of commitment is pretty staggering -- especially considering Florida's lack of income tax. The Panthers were reportedly trying to land both Bobrovsky and his former Blue Jackets teammate, winger Artemi Panarin, and it's possible that they may have been willing to commit more money for Bob once Panarin signed with the New York Rangers.
In any case, Bobrovksy is still a good-to-very-good goaltender (and he can be great) but he's coming off a rather pedestrian regular season. His goals saved above average was just 5.27 last season, ranking him 23rd in the league in that category.
Bobrovsky is also heading into his age 31 season, meaning he'll be 38 years old when this deal runs out. The Panthers are banking on him showing tremendous longevity with a $10 million cap hit into his late 30s.
It's an extremely risky bet, especially after some of the inconsistencies in his game just last year, and it's a deal that could leave the Panthers in a really tough spot in just a few years. It has serious albatross potential, especially with how unpredictable goalies tend to be.
Of course, if Bobrovsky is reinvigorated by that Florida sun and re-discovers his Vezina-worthy self to help the Panthers make a couple of strong playoff runs on the front end of the deal, he could earn himself some grace for whatever happens on the tail end.
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