With the Canucks’ jaw dropping third-period collapse on Monday still fresh in everyone’s minds, is it crazy to think that 34-year-old goaltender Roberto Luongo’s new team, the Florida Panthers, has a better chance of winning the Cup over the next four or five years than Vancouver?
There’s no question that Florida has had a bad season and frankly hasn’t done much since they made it to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, but they got plenty of promising youngsters from Aleksander Barkov to Jonathan Huberdeau to Nick Bjugstad. That’s not enough, but it’s a start.
“It’s all about making a commitment to bringing some people in and trying to build a winner,” Luongo said, according to the Canadian Press. “That’s what it’s all about for me. I’m not here to fade into the sunset. I want to be part of something special coming here.”
Luongo added that he believes the pieces are in Florida to make a serious run in the not too distant future, although the roster still needs to be rounded out with solid complimentary players. Getting them will be doable given that the Panthers have just $45.4 million committed to 13 players for the 2014-15 campaign, per Cap Geek. They still have restricted free agents to sign, but there’s no question that they have plenty of cap flexibility going forward.
Of course, having money to burn is only useful if there are guys on the market willing to play for you. Getting Luongo might help in that regard too.
“It’s hard to recruit anybody if they don’t think you’re doing the right thing,” Panthers GM Dale Tallon said. “I think the commitment of making that deal and the commitment that Vinny Viola’s going to make … will really influence a lot of decisions as far as players wanting to come here, seeing that we’re really committed to winning.”
What happens with the Canucks remains to be seen. From their perspective, trading Luongo was part of a larger effort to start getting younger, which suggests that they’re in the early stages of a rebuilding process that Florida has long since embraced. Either way though, that chapter of Luongo’s career is over.