There were a few new faces as the Florida Panthers reported to training camp in Sunrise on Wednesday.
Most of the focus, however, were on a few names who may or may not be at camp in the coming days.
General manager Dale Tallon said he was continuing to look at ways of strengthening Florida’s goaltending situation.
With Scott Clemmensen out for a few weeks after having knee surgery, only 23-year-old Jacob Markstrom has any NHL experience among Florida’s four goalies at camp.
Tallon confirmed the Panthers have spoken to veteran free agents Tim Thomas, Ilya Bryzgalov and Jose Theodore – Florida’s starter for much of the past two seasons – to gauge their interest in trying out for the team.
Theodore has reportedly turned down the Panthers’ invitation to a professional tryout (PTO) during camp. Theodore, instead, is looking for a contract from the Panthers and not just a ‘shot’ at making the team
“We had a great conversation [Tuesday],” Tallon said.
As far as Thomas and Bryzgalov goes, Tallon hopes to hear an answer back soon.
The Panthers open practice Thursday morning in Coral Springs with Markstrom working in net alongside Michael Houser, Dov Grumet-Morris and Rob Madore.
“[Thomas and Bryzgalov] have experience and history,” Tallon said. “They are veteran guys who have won. We’re looking at everything and we’re not in position not to look at everything. We want to get better. It’s important we investigate every scenario to make our team better.”
Both Thomas and Bryzgalov come with some baggage, although Tallon doesn’t seem to be bothered by any of it.
Thomas, who led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011, took last season off (and lost out on the final year of a contract) after a controversial follow-up season in 2011-12.
Thomas refused to join his teammates at the White House for their Cup celebration as he cited opposition to the policies of President Barack Obama and there were reports that his public display of his politics was a distraction to his team.
The Bruins traded his contract to the Islanders last year as that team kept Thomas on the books solely to pad their salary cap number. Thomas, who won the league’s top goalie honors twice, said he took last season off to focus on his faith and his family as he holed up in Colorado.
Bryzgalov signed a nine-year, $51 million deal with Philadelphia in 2011, but his popularity quickly started to fade after making a number of off-the-wall comments on the HBO series 24/7 as well as to the local media.
Bryzgalov didn’t help himself as he play suffered and he not only fought with the local media but distanced himself from teammates. This summer, Philadelphia cut ties with Bryzgalov to the tune of $23 million over the next 14 years.
Bringing either of those two goalies would create media interest not only locally but throughout the league. Tallon only cares about them helping the Panthers win.
When asked if he cared about how “flaky” both Bryzgalov and Thomas are considered to be, Tallon – who is pretty colorful himself – didn’t miss a beat.
“The puck doesn’t know they are flaky,” Tallon said. “I don’t care about that. Goalies are a little unique to begin with so I’m OK with it. We’ve done our homework. We’re investigating and we’ll do what’s best for all involved.”
Although both Thomas and Bryzgalov says they want to start – “I certainly don’t want to sign a goalie who says he wants to be a backup,” Tallon said – Markstrom goes into camp holding that distinction for the Panthers.
“We told everyone they have to compete for a job,” Tallon said. “Everyone is competing to help us win. There is no guarantee for anyone.”
Markstrom has long been touted as Florida’s ’goalie of the future,’ and last year he took the reigns when Theodore tore his groin midway through the lockout-shortened season.
Clemmensen, who had surgery last week, reported to camp as well. He’s expected to be out until at least Florida’s final round of preseason games later this month.
“I’m here to be the starting goalie and that’s nothing to be shy about,” Markstrom said. “For me, I can’t affect what Dale or the people upstairs are doing. They are doing their job and my job is to play goalie the best I can.”
• Tallon said Florida’s long list of injured players is shrinking as everyone, save for captain Ed Jovanovski after his major hip surgery, is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
Jonathan Huberdeau, last year’s rookie of the year, said he will likely start things slowly after having hip surgery.
Tallon said he wants players to be ready for the season and isn’t worried about players not being 100 percent for the start of camp.
“We’ll have guys working in, we’ll be cautious,” Tallon said.