Vancouver Canucks All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo has stated his desire to return to the Florida Panthers, the team with which he made his name. Although no doubt Luongo is still a quality goaltender, there are multiple factors that make him an undesirable asset to the up and coming Florida Panthers. Luongo was recently at the Saveology Iceplex, the Panthers training facility, and when interviewed he stated how the Panthers were a good fit for him. But is he a good fit for the Panthers?
The Florida Panthers broke an NHL record playoff drought last season, one in which they surprised pundits and hockey fans alike and fought hard in a tough 7 game series loss to the New Jersey Devils. A large reason for the team’s success was the goaltending. Starting goalie Jose Theodore was solid in a bounce back year, and back-up Scott Clemmensen carried the load when Theodore was injured. Even highly touted rookie prospect Jacob Markstrom was outstanding, posting an impressive 40 save performance against the Montreal Canadiens early in the season. With Theodore and Clemmensen signed for next season and Markstrom waiting in the wings, adding Luongo and his current contract (which still has 10 years left) will only hinder Markstrom’s development, who many claim to be the best goalie not currently in the NHL. Markstrom is the Panther’s goalie of the future, Luongo is 33 years old and will only continue to decline. Goaltending is not an area the Florida Panthers need help in.
Luongo’s massive contract
Luongo still has 10 years left, with an annual cap hit of 5.33 million, in that contract he signed with Vancouver after he was traded. This means he will 43 years old by the time the contract expires, and being a declining veteran with a high cap hit means he will be virtually unmoveable as the years go on. The Panthers are well below the cap floor, yes, but with a new CBA (possibly) in the works will surely mean the salary cap will be lowered. Clemmensen or Theodore are much more affordable and capable goalies, and one of them may back up Jacob Markstrom one day. The Panthers do not need and over paid average goalie to be their back up. While Luongo has been solid, his numbers have dwindled. His struggles in the playoffs have been well documented and he was not able to carry a loaded team to the Stanley Cup. There really is no good reason for the Panthers to limit the growth of a goaltender that may quite possibly be the best in the world one day, and to commit so much money to a player that has underperformed when it matters most.
Canucks’ Asking Price
Vancouver General Manager Mike Gillis was reportedly asking for one of the Panther’s top prospect in exchange for Luongo. That may include Quinton Howden, or Jonathan Huberdeau. The Panthers finally have some potentially highly skilled offensive players ready for the NHL. Giving them up for Luongo would be a terrible mistake on General Manager Dale Tallon’s part. Tallon has stated he will not give up any of these players for Luongo, but he will consider a deal if the price is right. The idea of acquiring a goaltender like Roberto Luongo may be tempting, but looking at the bigger picture the Panthers are better off without him. All of a sudden the Florida Panthers are revelant after years of mediocrity, there is no need to hurt the team’s continued growth.
Bad management decisions hurt the team in the past, and the years of suffering are still fresh on the minds of Panthers fans. I would classify a Luongo trade a bad management decision, and I believe Dale Tallon was hired to do the opposite of that. This is a team whose future finally looks bright. Hopefully Tallon makes the right choice and keeps the team in a steady path upward.
Credit to CapGeek.com for contract information and NHL.com for player information.