Monday, July 18, 2011

Florida Panthers' José Theodore Wants to be Starter Again

From the Miami Herald

By George Richards

After a frustrating season as a backup for Minnesota, Jose Theodore hopes to be the No. 1 goaltender for the Panthers, his new team.

When Tomas Vokoun turned down the Panthers’ final contract offer June 30, the team made it clear they would be moving on.

Vokoun spent four seasons as the starting goalie after Jacques Martin made a draft-day trade in 2007 with Nashville. Vokoun was Florida’s first option for next season, with a three-year deal having been offered. When he turned that down, the Panthers kept their word. One of the first players Florida signed when the free agency market opened July 1 was veteran netminder Jose Theodore.

When training camp opens in September, Theodore will come in as the starter. It’s his job to lose.

“I was put in a role last year that I don’t think I should have been in,’’ said Theodore, who will compete with Scott Clemmensen and possibly Jacob Markstrom. Theodore was a backup in Minnesota last season. “I accepted the role because I am a good teammate.

“But last year I could have played 50-55 games. I want to return to playing at a high level. I’m just going to do my stuff, do my thing. If you want to play, you have to be the best guy. If Scott Clemmensen outplays me, I expect him to play. If I play better, I expect to play.’’

Vokoun left the Panthers expecting to find riches somewhere else. When the free agency period opened, Vokoun was the second-rated available player by Canada’s TSN. It was thought if he didn’t end up with the Panthers — and once Theodore was signed, that was over — he would get a big contract with Colorado or Phoenix.

But Colorado made a big trade with Washington and secured Semyon Varlamov, and Phoenix signed former Tampa Bay starter Mike Smith.

The market for Vokoun quickly dried up. Instead of waiting around, Vokoun signed a one-year deal July 2 with the Capitals for $1.5 million. Now that things have settled, this might turn out to be a great move for Vokoun. Yes, he lost out on short-term money and he only has a one-year contract. But, with the Capitals, Vokoun gets to play for a winning team, one some believe is poised to make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Similar anxiety
Theodore knows what Vokoun was going through in the first couple of days of being a free agent — because he went through a similar situation just last year. A free agent after not re-signing with Washington, Theodore found himself with no job. Unlike Vokoun, the wait was long.

When Theodore finally found a team, it was just before the season started. The Wild needed a backup for Niklas Backstrom after Josh Harding hurt his knee and was lost for the season. Theodore, who was 30-7-7 for the Capitals the season before, had to wait until the last minute to get a job.

“After the last year I had in Washington, I really thought on July 1 I would have a lot of calls to be a No. 1 goalie,’’ said Theodore, who will be 35 by opening night. “It didn’t happen. This year I had plenty of options. It’s just key to sign July 1. You can get everything out of the way and then you can start training again and turn the focus toward the season.’’

Theodore played out his year with the Wild last season, winning 15 of the 32 games he appeared in. Theodore’s play in Minnesota was enough for the Panthers to decide on bringing him in. Theodore was given a two-year deal worth $3 million.

The Panthers said they are fine with Theodore and Clemmensen as their likely tandem moving forward. Goalie coach Robb Tallas said he was watched plenty of tape of Theodore’s past few seasons and believes he still has plenty remaining.

Benefit of a duel
Theodore and Clemmensen both agree that competition is good and should keep both goalies sharp. Even though Vokoun was challenged by Craig Anderson and Clemmensen during his time with the Panthers, he never really felt his job was in danger — mostly because of the large salary he drew.

Florida’s current situation is different, however, as either goalie could be called upon to start. And Markstrom, 21, is a wild card. Markstrom was recently at Florida’s prospect development camp, although he didn’t participate as he continues to rehab a knee injury sustained last season.

Markstrom, a second-round pick by the Panthers in 2008, is Florida’s goalie-in-waiting. After a slow start in the minors last season, Markstrom was playing strong before injuring the meniscus in his knee. He will be at training camp this year, as well. As he said, he’s not coming to work on his tan.

“I’m a lot more confident on and off the ice,’’ Markstrom said. “I know what’s waiting for me here. Last year, everything was new. I feel a lot better being around here now.’’

No comments:

Post a Comment

Spam comments are not approved.