Why would the Panthers want Luongo anyway?

9 Comments

It’s a question many have been wondering. And since it’s Florida Panthers day on PHT, we’ll wonder it below.

The Panthers didn’t have the NHL’s best goaltending in 2011-12; however, compared to teams like Toronto, Columbus and Chicago, they were remarkably solid between the pipes.

Jose Theodore started most of the games, finishing 22-16-11 with a .917 save percentage. The 35-year-old has one year left on his contract with a cap hit of $1.5 million.

The Panthers’ other veteran netminder, Scott Clemmensen, was no slouch either, finishing 14-6-6 with a .913 save percentage. Also 35, he recently signed a two-year extension worth $2.4 million.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Roberto Luongo’s save percentage (.919) was better than both Theodore’s and Clemmensen’s, but only slightly.

And here’s the most important part – Luongo, 33, is under contract until 2021-22 with a cap hit just north of $5.3 million.

Also consider the Panthers have highly touted prospect Jacob Markstrom waiting in the wings. The 31st overall pick in the 2008 draft made seven appearances in 2011-12 and performed rather well (.923 SV%).

So that’s the argument against getting Luongo. The argument for? Let’s see…

— A career .919 save percentage in the regular season. Since 2000-01, it hasn’t been lower than .913 in a single season. That’s consistency.

— Since joining the Canucks in 2006-07, he’s made 60 starts in the playoffs, winning 32 of them with a .916 save percentage and five shutouts.

Yes, he’s had some dreadful performances along the way, but a lot of goalies don’t even earn the opportunity to melt down in big games.

And if coach Alain Vigneault had been a little quicker to bring out the hook in those situations, maybe Luongo would’ve been in a better position mentally to bounce back.

Hey, just saying – most coaches wouldn’t have let their starter get ventilated for eight goals on the road in the Stanley Cup finals. (Cue the Kernkraft 400!)

But that’s another story. Where were we? Oh, right…

— He backstopped Team Canada to Olympic gold in 2010 with the weight of a nation on his shoulders.

The big issue is the 10 years remaining on Luongo’s contract. For Panthers GM Dale Tallon, it would be a considerable risk to take on that sort of commitment.

Of course, it should be noted the last four years of the deal are for minimal salary and it’s possible, if not likely, he’ll have retired by then.