Roberto Luongo retires after 19 NHL seasons

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As the Florida Panthers prepare to be “aggressive” when the NHL free agency market opens next Monday, they’ll now definitely be in need of a goaltender after Roberto Luongo announced his retirement on Wednesday.

In an open letter to fans, the 40-year-old Luongo said he listened to his body and felt that now was the right time to walk away.

I love the game so much, but the commitment I required to prepare, to keep my body ready, has become overwhelming. Since I had my hip surgery a couple of years ago, I’ve been showing up two hours before every practice and three hours before every game to work out my hip. Even at night, whether it was the night before a game or even a night off, there I was rolling out, doing strengthening exercises. My entire life revolved around recovery, strengthening and making sure I was ready to go the next day.

As May rolled around, I was looking at the calendar and I found myself dreading getting back into my routine. My offseason workouts always start in the third week of May and I wasn’t looking forward to getting back in the gym. There’s a lot of work and effort required and I found my body telling me that it didn’t want to go through it.

Then thinking about getting onto the ice in late July, for the first time in my career, I wasn’t excited about it. That was the sign for me. It’s not that I don’t love playing hockey anymore, but I had to listen to my body. I’m at the point where my body was telling me it just needed a rest. It didn’t really want to get going.

The fourth overall pick in the 1997 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders, Luongo finishes his career with 1,044 games played (second-most by a goaltender), 489 wins (third all-time) and 77 shutouts (ninth all-time) between the Islanders, Panthers and Vancouver Canucks. He’s also one of only three goalies to have played 1,000 games in the NHL. He was a five-time All-Star, won a Jennings Trophy, was three-time finalist for the Vezina Trophy (2004, 2007, 2011), a finalist for the Hart Trophy (2007), and was a finalist for the Bill Masterton Trophy (2018).

Internationally, Luongo won two Olympic gold medals with Canada, as well as two golds at the IIHF World Championship, and a 2004 World Cup of Hockey title.

There is a business side to Luongo’s retirement that not only affects the Panthers. The Canucks, who signed Luongo to his 12-year, $64M contract — the one he famously said “sucks” after staying put in Vancouver following the 2013 trade deadline — back in 2009 and then dealt him to Florida in March 2014, will carry a cap recapture penalty of $3.033M, per Cap Friendly, for the next three seasons, thanks to the agreement in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement on back-diving contracts. The Panthers’ penalty will be $1.094M until the end of the 2021-22 NHL season.

The Panthers could have placed Luongo on long-term injury reserve, but retirement saves them a little over $3.6M in real cash that was owed to the netminder.

As for life after playing, Luongo says he’s having a home built in Parkland where his family will remain. A proud resident, he delivered he delivered a passionate speech to the BB&T Center crowd before their first home game following last year’s shooting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He hopes to be part of the Panthers’ organization in some capacity in the future.

“For now though, I’m just another retiree in South Florida,” Luongo wrote. “I’ll be going to get my senior citizen’s card here pretty soon.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.