The Florida Panthers are giving retired goaltender Tim Thomas a chance to make a comeback, signing the two time Vezina Trophy winner to a tryout deal on Monday. Thomas' last NHL appearance came in 2012.
"He really wants to play and he really wants to lead and he really wants to be the starter and he wants to win and he wants to win now," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said Monday. "I was very impressed with him. His attitude is terrific. I liked everything that he had to say and I liked his approach. We try to strive to get better every day and I think a good Tim Thomas makes us a better team."
The 39-year-old Thomas played eight seasons with the Boston Bruins, making the All-Star team in each of his final four seasons and helping the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011. Team officials said Thomas will address the media on Tuesday.
"He's a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, Conn Smythe Trophy winner and we need goaltending," Tallon said. "We need somebody to help us get to where we need to go. Right now, it's Tim Thomas. ... The more competition you have for spots internally, the better off your team will be. It's a wide-open competition. Let the best man win."
23-year-old Jacob Markstrom had been projected to be the starter in goal for the Panthers after he seized the starting job from veterans Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen towards the end of last season. Markstrom went 8-14-1 last year, allowing 3.22 goals per game with a .901 save percentage.
Markstrom's goals against average and save percentage were the best on the team, but nowhere near the best in the NHL. Thomas has a .921 career save percentage, leading the NHL twice in that category, with a 2.48 goals against average.
After the 2012 season Thomas wrote on his Facebook page that he planned to take a season off to reconnect with his family. Tallon said Monday that he is not concerned about Thomas' physical abilities following the layoff.
"He's in good shape and he's eager to go," Tallon said. "He worked extremely hard all year. Mentally and physically, he's very strong and he's ready to compete for a starting position here."
The Panthers began preseason play on Monday with a doubleheader against the Nashville Predators. They open the regular season on Oct. 3 at the Dallas Stars.