SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 8: Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers skates prior to the game against the Calgary Flames at the BB&T Center on November 8, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. The Flames defeated the Panthers 6-4. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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With Reimer signed, Panthers won’t rush Luongo back after hip surgery

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Signing James Reimer as an unrestricted free agent (five years, $17 million) seems prudent for the long-term future of the Florida Panthers. The move could also pay off in the short-term, as well.

It was revealed during Friday’s free agent frenzy that 37-year-old goalie Roberto Luongo underwent off-season hip surgery and, according to Panthers GM Tom Rowe, may not be able to start the 2016-17 season.

That means Reimer could begin the season as the starter in Florida, with recently acquired Reto Berra as the back-up — at least until Luongo gets back to full health.

“We’ll probably end up starting the season with Berra and obviously, Reimer,” said Rowe, as per the Sun Sentinel.

“We’ll see where Luongo is. Everything will be determined by how Lou gets through the offseason with his rehabilitation. Right now, it’s going really well. We’ll take it one day at a time. We don’t want to rush him back. We want him to come back on his schedule and just make sure we’re doing everything the right way.”

Luongo, who hit 37 years of age in April, appeared in 62 games in the regular season — he started 60 of them — and posted impressive numbers, including a 2.35 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage, which is three points higher than his career average.

Related: ‘Exhausted’ Luongo: ‘I need the rest’ after three games in four nights

Reimer is ‘excited to learn from’ Luongo in Florida

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Goaltender James Reimer #34 of the San Jose Sharks drinks from a gatorade bottle in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the St. Louis Blues during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Aaron Ekblad will not be a free agent for a long time. That alone made this free-agency day for the Florida Panthers an overwhelming success.

The Panthers have locked up their star 20-year-old defenseman for eight additional years, the sides formally completing the work Friday on what will be a $60 million extension that keeps him in Florida through the 2024-25 season. The deal was announced on the first day of the NHL’s free-agent signing period, though Ekblad was still under contract to Florida for the coming season.

“I don’t think it’s any secret,” Panthers general manager Tom Rowe said. “He’s a guy we want in the fold for a long time to come.”

Ekblad was an All-Star in each of his first two years with Florida, and now clearly becomes a face of a franchise that believes it is getting closer to finally hoisting the Stanley Cup.

“Couldn’t be happier,” Ekblad wrote on Instagram as he posed in a Florida jersey.

He was the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft and already is Florida’s franchise leader with eight career game-winning goals.

“An exceptionally skilled, intelligent and mature young player that is a difference maker for our team both on and off the ice,” Rowe said.

The Panthers won the Atlantic Division last year, reaching the playoffs for just the second time in 15 seasons. The ownership group led by Vincent Viola has made no secret that it is driven by winning a championship, and Florida is starting to look like a real potential contender.

“He bought the team to win a Stanley Cup and the players that we’ve got here all want to win a Stanley Cup,” Rowe said. “We felt what we did today gives us a better chance of doing that.”

There were other moves, including the signing of goaltender James Reimer to a five-year, $17 million deal to share the workload with starter Roberto Luongo.

Reimer has spent six seasons in the NHL, mostly with Toronto. He also appeared in nine games – eight regular-season, one playoff – with Stanley Cup finalist San Jose this past season.

Reimer came to South Florida to see the Panthers’ facilities Friday and was quickly convinced he was making the right decision.

“We’ve got a great team and great management and ownership, they’re passionate about winning,” Reimer said. “As a player, that’s the organization you want to be a part of.”

Luongo is still one of the best in the NHL, but the Panthers have been mindful of not overusing their 37-year-old goalie. He’s sat out roughly one of every four Florida regular-season games in each of the last two years and had offseason hip surgery. The Panthers made a trade for former Colorado backup Reto Berra late last month. If Luongo isn’t ready for opening night, Berra would begin as Reimer’s backup.

“We really targeted Reimer as a guy we see long term,” Rowe said.

So Reimer’s role will hardly be a limited one, and he’s looking forward to being with Luongo.

“He’s a heck of a goalie, he’s an elite goalie and I think his personality is known across the league,” Reimer said. “He’s just a great guy. For me, I’m excited to learn from him.”

Reimer’s arrival means Al Montoya‘s time as Luongo’s backup is over, and longtime Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell is gone as well, as was expected, particularly after the team landed Keith Yandle late last month. Campbell is going back to the Chicago Blackhawks for next season.

Florida also added a pair of forwards Friday, signing Colton Sceviour and Jonathan Marchessault to two-year contracts.

Sceviour had 11 goals and 12 assists with Dallas last season, then added five more points for the Stars in 11 playoff games. Marchessault had seven goals and 11 assists in 45 games for Tampa Bay last season.

Rowe coached against Sceviour in the AHL and sees him as a third-line option right away for Florida.

“It’s a young league and the game’s getting faster every year and we felt the guys we picked up today, it gave us more skill and definitely gave us some quicker guys at that third-line position,” Rowe said. “It gives (coach Gerard Gallant) some options, more options than we had last year.”

Sharks confirm it’s Jones over Reimer in goal for Game 1

Martin Jones, Brent Burns
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In late March, we passed along this bit out of San Jose — when CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz asked Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer if he was ready to commit to Martin Jones as his playoff starter, DeBoer replied curiously.

“We think we’ve got two guys that we’re very comfortable with,” he said. “We’ll see where we are when we have to make those decisions.”

Well, today was apparently the day to make that decision.

DeBoer put any potential goalie controversy to bed — at least for now — by confirming it would be Jones in Game 1 versus Los Angeles, with James Reimer serving as the backup.

More, from the Mercury News:

Jones has been the Sharks’ No. 1 goalie all season but San Jose has had one of the NHL’s better goaltending tandems since they acquired James Reimer from Toronto in late February. In eight starts for the Sharks, Reimer, who has played in more playoff games than Jones, is 6-2 with a .938 save percentage and a 1.62 goals against average.
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Since the All-Star break, Jones is 14-10-1 with a goals against average of 2.08 and a save percentage of .922.

Jones, of course, has been the guy for San Jose this year. He’s posted solid numbers (37 wins, .918 save percentage, 2.27 GAA) while carrying one of the league’s heaviest workloads. His 65 appearances were fifth-most among goalies.

But Reimer’s arrival made things interesting.

Prior to, the guy Reimer was traded for — Alex Stalock — was mired in a disappointing campaign, and regarded as one of the league’s weaker backups. So with Stalock in the fold, there was a sense Jones almost had to play as much as he did.

Which might explain why DeBoer hesitated before officially naming Jones his Game 1 starter. But what the head coach might’ve done — inadvertently or not — is create a situation where Jones is looking over his shoulder, or plays like he’s on a short leash.

Reimer shoots down report of $6M asking price

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer reacts during a break in the first period of Toronto's NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Shortly after James Reimer was dealt from Toronto to San Jose, Sportsnet reported part of the reason the pending UFA goalie was shipped out was because of his asking price — $6 million annually over six years, a whopping $36M total.

Now, Reimer is trying to set the record straight.

“I don’t even want to dignify it with a response,” Reimer said of the report, per the Calgary Sun. “That was definitely untrue.”

Reimer, 27, is in the last of a two-year, $4.6 million deal with a $2.3M average annual cap hit, so the $6M would represent a fairly massive raise.

Not that he doesn’t deserve some kind of pay bump.

Reimer was solid this year playing behind a weak Leafs team, posting a .918 save percentage and 2.49 GAA, snatching the No. 1 gig away from Jonthan Bernier in the process.

And now — barring some major development in San Jose — Reimer will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.

It promises to be an interesting bit of negotiating.

Reimer is near the top — or, depending on how you feel about him, at the top — of a UFA goalie list that projects to feature the likes of Cam Ward, Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo. Career backups like Anton Khudobin, Alex Stalock, Chad Johnson, Jhonas Enroth, Al Montoya, Antti Raanta, Carter Hutton and Jonas Gustavsson are also available, but Reimer could be a legit No. 1 option for a few clubs.

The question, of course, is how much teams are willing to pay a potential starting goalie in free agency?

Last summer, Ramo scored a one-year, $3.8M deal with Calgary — one of the teams rumored to be interested in Reimer — while Dallas sort-of inked Antti Niemi to a three-year, $13.5M pact (the Stars technically acquired Niemi’s negotiating rights prior to signing him).

Given the limited number of starting gigs available and cap uncertainty, it’s tough to see Reimer cashing in come July 1.

Goalie nods: Reimer makes his Sharks debut against the Canucks

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) deflects a shot by San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski (8) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. San Jose won 6-2. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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The Sharks acquired James Reimer from Toronto prior to the trade deadline, but he’s yet to make an appearance for his new team. He’ll finally make his Sharks debut in Saturday’s game against the Canucks.

“It’s good,” Reimer said on Friday, per the Mercury News. “You want to get going, you want to contribute to what they’ve got going on here.

“I just try to use my size to my advantage and get hit by pucks and maybe open the car door and scramble a bit to keep it out on second and third chances.”

Here’s Reimer’s new mask:

The Sharks were concerned about over-working starting goalie Martin Jones throughout the regular season. The team lost confidence in former backup Alex Stalock which meant that they had to lean on Jones more often than they wanted to.

Reimer’s arrival should allow Jones to get a few more nights off between now and the start of the postseason.

The Canucks will start Jacob Markstrom.

Elsewhere…

Joni Ortio will be between the pipes for the Flames. He’s looking for his first win of the 2015-16 season. The Penguins will counter with Marc-Andre Fleury.

Pekka Rinne is expected to be between the pipes for Nashville. Calvin Pickard will make his second consecutive start for the Avs.

–The Ducks and Kings haven’t announced their starters, but expect John Gibson to go up against Jonathan Quick.

–After getting a night off on Thursday, Mike Condon is back in goal for Montreal. The Jets will start Ondrej Pavelec.

–The Blue Jackets have yet to name a start. The Flyers will have Steve Mason in goal.

Eddie Lack will be between the pipes for the ‘Canes. Expect the Bolts to counter with Ben Bishop.

–With Craig Anderson on the shelf, the Senators will start Andrew Hammond in goal. The Maple Leafs will go with Jonathan Bernier.

Philipp Grubauer will get the nod for the Capitals. The Bruins haven’t confirmed their starter, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go with Tuukka Rask.

–Look for Roberto Luongo to play for the Panthers. The Coyotes will turn to Louis Domingue in this one.