I feel Knight is an immensely gifted goaltender able to being a star within the NHL. But after solely 36 video games performed, it’s actually exhausting to foretell if that may come true. Knight merely hasn’t performed with sufficient regularity on the NHL degree to know if he’s going to be value $4.5M a 12 months.

Let’s be actual right here: the Panthers are playing that Knight will take over the crease from incumbent No. 1 goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky sooner fairly than later. There’s no manner they might have dedicated $14.5M of wage cap area over three seasons to 2 goaltenders in any other case. Florida clearly believes within the 21-year previous from Connecticut.

I’ve watched Knight since junior hockey and have at all times been impressed together with his technical capacity. He performs with element. And he can cease the puck. His .932 save proportion over two seasons at Boston College doesn’t occur with out an innate capacity to trace the puck.

But what I see now within the NHL continues to be a piece in progress. Last 12 months was Knight’s first full NHL season and at instances, he appeared overwhelmed by the velocity of the play.

Part of that was resulting from his depth. Knight was within the white ice too typically, which I feel was detrimental. He’s 6-foot-3. Playing past the objective crease in at the moment’s NHL is a dangerous proposition because of the prevalence of site visitors and lateral performs. So by mid-season, with Knight’s save proportion beneath .900, he was despatched all the way down to the AHL.

Over 11 video games with the Charlotte Checkers, Knight went 7-4-0. But most significantly, he bought to play repeatedly. With Bobrovsky beginning the majority of Panthers video games, Knight didn’t have any probability to search out his personal rhythm. He wanted to be in web for consecutive tilts.

Knight got here again to the NHL on March 7 and appeared far more snug. He went 10-3-1 with a .921 save proportion for the remainder of the season. Granted, Knight confronted a fairly weak crop of NHL groups throughout the stretch. But it was clear that his confidence was again.

My intestine intuition is that Florida was sensible to lock up Knight. They get all of this 12 months with him on a low-dollar, entry-level contract. Then they’ve three extra years of Knight at $4.5M. And then one other 12 months as an RFA the place the crew has a level of management. At minimal, they might qualify Knight for $4.5M. So realistically, if issues go as deliberate, the Panthers have Knight for the following 5 seasons in a cost-controlled setting.

But with certainty comes threat. I do suppose Knight will reside as much as the contract. He’s younger. He’s an extremely sturdy skater. And Knight has a fame for being a steadfast learner. But the deal is sort of unprecedented.

NHL groups have lately gotten within the behavior of paying gamers for what they are going to do, not what they’ve completed. Just take a look at the contract Tim Stutzle signed lately with the Ottawa Senators. But to date, rosy forecast contracts have not often been given to goaltenders.

One sturdy comparable that involves thoughts is Cal Petersen’s three-year contract extension that he signed after enjoying simply 54 NHL video games. The L.A. Kings agreed to pay the 27-year previous netminder $5M a 12 months starting with the 2022-23 season.

After a disappointing season through which Petersen’s save proportion dropped to a career-low .895 over 37 video games, all of the sudden his deal appears questionable. The structural flaws in Petersen’s recreation have regularly been uncovered with extra enjoying time. Teams know how one can beat him.

The Kings are caught with Petersen’s contract. It has to work. And it’s on Petersen to up his degree of play to match the {dollars}.

That’s the place I feel Knight has a bonus. His mechanics are so sound. And due to his skating capacity, he’s often sq. to the shooter. The small tweaks I feel he wants must be manageable: higher depth management, a deal with discovering pucks via site visitors. Young goaltenders must study each on the fly in professional hockey. And at 21 years previous, Knight has room to develop.

But as bullish as I’m on Knight, that $4.5M price ticket is daunting. Especially contemplating Bobrovsky has a cap hit of $10M via the 2025-26 season. It’s exhausting to think about Florida utilizing $14.5M of cap area on goaltending within the ultimate two seasons of Bobrovsky’s deal.

I feel if something, Knight’s deal exhibits that the crease is open in Florida. Bobrovsky now not owns it. I don’t consider the Panthers are significantly thrilled about Bobrovsky’s cap hit. And given the contractual standing of every goaltender, I feel it’s fairly clear that the Panthers are pushing their eggs in direction of Knight’s proverbial basket.

A No. 1 NHL goaltender instructions a minimum of $5M {dollars} on the open market. So I’m certain Florida is betting that Knight’s deal will flip into a worth play earlier than too lengthy. Especially if he crushes it this season.

I simply suppose $4.5M is tough to digest, particularly contemplating contracts just like the one Jake Oettinger simply signed with Dallas for 3 years at $4M per. Or Thatcher Demko at $5M for 5 years. Is it actually potential to say that Knight will probably be value $4.5M with such a restricted NHL pattern dimension?

Based on what I’ve seen from Knight, I do suppose he’ll reside as much as the deal. But there’s an terrible lot of projecting and hope occurring in my evaluation. I’ve seen can’t-miss goaltending prospects find yourself out of the NHL earlier than their careers even bought began. With this contract, a minimum of Knight is aware of that Florida is dedicated to him. Both sides want it to work.

At a value level like $3-3.5M, I’d have cherished the deal. But $4.5M is a attain. And the {dollars} make the contract untradeable ought to Knight’s development stall at any time over the following 4 years.

If I used to be in control of the Panthers, Knight’s contract extension would make me nervous. Just like the general goaltending panorama of the crew if you issue within the proportion of wage cap allotted to the place.

This is a life-changing deal for Knight. And it’ll resonate all through the NHL when different younger goalies negotiate. The contract will probably be used as a comparable and drive up the worth of goaltending.

As a card-carrying member of the goalie union, it makes me completely happy to see extra goalies receiving a paycheck consistent with the place’s significance. But I nonetheless suppose contracts should be earned, not given. And regardless of how good Knight is or will probably be, he was given this contract. Now he has to show his value. The stress is on.

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