This article is a risk, but one I felt I had to take. The risk is that I will alienate myself from some dedicated Florida Panther fans as well as continue to irritate some Vancouver Canuck ones……so be it. While things in South Florida have been quiet since the Panthers lost in double overtime to the New Jersey Devils on April 26th, there has been some chatter in other media outlets that is making people like me nervous. Rumors are circulating that Roberto Luongo has given the Canucks a list of teams that he’s willing to be traded to and Florida happens to be on that list. Whether it’s both the Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t certain, but with his wife’s family still residing in the state, you can be that both are on that list.
That list is also said to include the Toronto Maple Leafs who appear to be in desperate need of not only a goaltender, but of making the playoffs. Brian Burke’s plan which is almost 4 years in the making, doesn’t seem to be working out as planned, and for all the chatter about truculence, pugnacity and testosterone, the Leafs continue to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the post season. And the natives in the alleged “hockey universe” are getting restless. It’s been said (rumor) that Luongo has submitted a list to the Canucks. It’s also been said that Canucks GM Mike Gillis will not ask a player to waive his no trade clause. Is that the same as when a GM says the job of a coach is safe, and he’s fired within two weeks? We shall see, as the Stanley Cup Final is close to being over, and the draft is approaching in a few weeks. A deal for Luongo could come by that time. Or not.
All this said, the rumors of him coming here are interesting, curious and in my opinion bazarre. Don’t go thinking that because of my feelings about the netminder that I’m giving a biased opinion. Just because the image I’ve chosen is typically how I see him, and just because this highlight video is why I don’t think it should happen, doesn’t mean I’m biased. However, below are my five reasons on why the Florida Panthers should not trade for Luongo. You can agree, or you can disagree. But as my physical education teacher in 7th grade once said, “I may not always be right, but when I’m wrong, I’m still right”:
1) Luongo’s Contract. As of right now according to Cap Geek, the Florida Panthers have about $29 million dollars of available cap space. This of course is before Kris Versteeg, Jason Garrison and some other players have been signed or resigned, as well as not knowing exactly what the new cap number will be. Word is that when the new CBA is agreed upon that the cap is going up to $73 million. That’s the top number, which doesn’t mean that the Panthers or any other team for that matter will spend that much. As for Luongo, he’s signed for another 10 years at $5.3 million dollars per season. 10 years? Good grief, @LilMissRatTrick will be done with med school by then! At 33 years of age, and let’s face it, past his prime, that contract will be virtually untradeable in about three seasons. Imagine a 36 year old goaltender with six more years left on a deal that never should have been given to him in the first place, and us trying to get rid of, or dump it. I don’t think that’s how we would want this to materialize. Certainly you can’t pay him that kind of money to be a back up. At least here. It’s just not fiscally responsible.
2) Trade Value: What is Luongo’s trade value? At 33 years old he’s still a good goaltender. (Did I just type that?) But in the situation that he’s currently in, Vancouver is holding all the chips. I’d hate to overpay for a player that might on the down side of his career, and trade any part of our future to acquire him. Gillis would most likely be asking for a current roster player, a draft pick and one or maybe two promising players. Huberdeau, Gudbranson and Howden are to stay put. Beyond that, I have no idea how this deal could work in our favor. Dale Tallon who has pulled some magical deals in his past, might be able to finagle another, but at the expense of our future, and at the expense of our salary cap space? This contract would be like throwing a 16 ton weight on the team for the next decade.
3) Goaltending is set: Going into next season I have no problem with one more year of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen manning the pipes if Jacob Markstrom isn’t ready. Theo and Clem are certainly cabable of handling the load, and as pleased as I knew I would be with Theo, I was equally impressed with the season that Clemmesen turned in. He was significantly more reliable than you or I had imagined, and held down the fort during Theodore’s injury timeout mid season. As for Markstrom, word is that the Panthers might want him spending one more year in the AHL since the past two years he’s missed time with a knee injury. After that Markstrom will be here hopefully for a very long time, and has already shown signs of brilliance. However this turns out between the three, our goaltending is not an area that we need to address in the off season. If we sign Clemmensen or not, bringing in Luongo only tosses the apple cart.
4) Drama: Bet you didn’t think about this one did you? With so much history with Roberto both here and in Vancouver, his career will end up reading like a long awaited broadway show with mixed reviews. Every day. In brief, when he was traded to the Canucks, the deal was made after several attempts by the Panthers to sign him at very “smart” numbers. Long term deals in the neighborhood of $6 million to $6.5 million dollars per season were on the table. At the time he was 27 years old, and with the exception of one season, he didn’t have a winning record, despite playing for some very inferior teams. Still the Panthers were willing to make the offer, but Luongo and his agent decided to play some hardball with Mike Keenan and the Panthers organEYEzation. Luongo’s side made demands of a press conference announcing the deal, and during that press conference wanted the Panthers to announce publicly that they would not trade him during the length of the contract, and that Luongo also wanted to name his goaltender coach. Pretty stiff demands from a player that hadn’t won anything yet, and wanted to be paid more or just as much as Martin Brodeur. With the Panthers blessing, Mike Keenan traded Luongo to Vancouver. Yes, I know a sore spot for some of you, but if Todd Bertuzzi didn’t hurt his back, and if Alex Auld didn’t suffer a knee injury, and have his confidence shaken by Uncle Jack (Jacques Martin), the trade would have been a decent one. The year prior to Auld being acquired he won 33 games for the Canucks, and therefore he had some promise. Martin “broke” him, and wanted Bertuzzi gone after his return from injury. During his time in Vancouver Luongo’s been under the microscope, and while has played extremely well during the season, his playoff record is lacking. Granted, he’s not solely responsible for every loss, but face it, his record for two consecutive seasons against the Blackhawks was abysmal, and the Hawks almost overcame him again last year. His final game against the Bruins in game seven of last years final may not have been all his fault, but he did himself no favors by pumping Tim Thomas’ tires. Bringing Luongo back only rehashes the storyline, and gives attention where it’s not needed. This is one of those times where the phrase “you can never go home” truly makes sense.
5) The Blueprint: Dale Tallon built a Stanley Cup winner in Chicago by following a process. Smart drafting, shrewd trades (the Patrick Sharp deal was like robbing a bank with comb in your pocket as your gun), and free agency. He promised to do the same here in Florida. Did he make a couple mistakes in Chicago? Maybe. Cristobal Huet didn’t pan out, and he might have been criticized for giving all that money to Brian Campbell, but it was the signing of Campbell that started the rebuild, and brought other players to the Hawks. Teams knew he was serious and he needed to outbid everyone else to get Campbell. During Campbell’s time in Chicago, many fans would gripe about his salary, but after the second first round exit in a row, fans are wishing Campbell was still there. Albatross of a contract or not, he’s a gifted defenceman. By trading for Luongo, a player who is getting older, and not going to get better, and a player who has wilted (yes wilted) under pressure, the Blueprint might as well be torn to shreds.
5A) Goal Song: I honestly would be tempted to play Chelsea Dagger after every goal was scored against him. That in and of itself, is enough reason for me to not want this deal to happen. Even though I like the song. And let’s not forget, six games a season against Dustin Byfuglien? The potential to see this every year isn’t appetizing.
It’s my personal opinion that if the Florida Panthers are going to spend this kind of money, I’d rather see it spent on trying to acquire a player like Ryan Suter or Zach Parise. Players who are going into their prime, and who could actually be a viable part of this franchise for the next five to seven years. And still be less than 35 years old at the end of a contract. At that point walking away wouldn’t matter, or keeping them on if they were still able to contribute would be a healthy idea. I just don’t see that happening with Luongo.
I’ve been wrong before, but I know I was right about Erik Gudbranson and Jose Theodore.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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