With Free Agency Frenzy beginning tomorrow, fans in South Florida are tired of hearing the Roberto Luongo returning to Florida stories and rumours. But, as the frenzy draws near these rumors are heating up, and beginning to appear as though Luongo could finally return “home”.
Roberto was drafted 4th overall by the New York Islanders in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, but only played 24 games with the team, going 7-14 with the club before being dealt along with Olli Jokinen to the Florida Panthers for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. A steal of a deal at the time for the Panthers. Luongo spent 5-years with the Cats before being shipped to the Vancouver Canucks with Lucas Krajicek and a 6th round pick in 2006 for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld. Roberto went on to play his best hockey in Vancouver, posting a career high 47-wins the following season – his first in a Canucks uniform, and then led his Canucks to the Stanley Cup final in 2011.
But, as the adage goes, “All good things must come to an end,” so too will Luongo’s career in Vancouver, and it appears as though the former Canucks Captain may be on his way out the door and returning to the Panthers once again. So, on the eve of the Free Agency Frenzy, we will analyze the pros and cons of picking up Roberto Luongo.
He knows how to win – If we trade for Luongo we are acquiring one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL today. Last season, Luongo posted the fewest amount of wins dating back to the 2003-04 season when he was a Florida Panther as he only managed 31 victories. But, it has to be noted that he only appeared in 55 contests, 5 fewer than the previous season, and 13 less than his 68 starts in the 2009-10 campaign. He posted a .919 Save Percentage and a 2.41 GAA. But, due to the hot play of backup Cory Schneider, management decided to cut back on Roberto’s time in net.
In 6-seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Luongo posted a record of 224-115-41 while registering a .920 Save Percentage, and a 2.35 GAA. Clearly numbers like this indicate that he had been on top of his game while in Vancouver, and right now the Panthers can use his talent and his drive night in and night out as they look to build on their first SouthEast Division title victory in team history.
Mentorship – Luongo, if he is to return to Florida, will bring one thing which shapes franchises – Leadership. Luongo was named captain of the Canucks for the 2008-09 season and went on to post a 33-13-7 record for Vancouver that season. Although he did not perform on-ice duties, he was a leader for the team both on and off the ice. In 2011, Luongo backed the Canucks into the Stanley Cup Finals, where the club lost to Boston in Game 7, but nonetheless Luongo got the club there.
In Florida, Luongo would be a great mentor to rising, and upcoming star Jacob Markstrom. Panthers management had already indicated this offseason that they intend on playing Markstrom once again in the AHL this upcoming season, but if Luongo were acquired, advice and mentorship would not be far, and he would learn from the best in the business – something which is key to all young goaltenders.
Declining play – Sadly, no matter how well a goaltender may play one season, it is never a safe bet to think they can repeat the following season. Although Luongo lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, there was no firepower last season for the Canucks netminder, as he was pushed by Cory Schneider to the point where he sat more games on the bench than any other time in his career. At 33-years old, Luongo has a few more years of good play left in him, but who is to say how long this may be. And, although his trade value may be high right now, by the time Markstrom is ready to take over the reins, Luongo’s trade value may just be decreased to little or none at all.
Asking Price – With all big trades in the NHL, one big name player going one way, requires a lot of talent in return. Canucks GM Mike Gillis is not intending to let his star netminder walk away with nothing in return, despite agreeing to a deal with Schneider Thursday evening. Reportedly, Gillis is asking for a prospect, offensive help, and the rights to Jason Garrison and a goaltender.
With Free Agency starting tomorrow, it appears as though Garrison will at least test the market and maty not be returning to the Cats lineup, despite his hot play last season. Therefore sending his rights to Vancouver in this deal may be better than losing him for nothing altogetherl. My guess is with Scott Clemmensen still unsigned, Jose Theodore “could” be the man going the other way to Vancouver which would set up a Theodore-Schneider duo. Sure, Theo played great for us last season, but if it is a price to acquire Luongo, its okay in my books to see this happen. Offensively, the Canucks need a second-third liner going the other way, and as to who this is, is anyones guess. Finally, a prospect is where Panthers GM Dale Talon is drawing the line. Tallon does not want to sacrifice the future for the now, as he does not intend on shipping a prospect the other way. An unknown counter offer has reportedly been sent to Gillis, which inturn demonstrates that the two sides are anxiously trying to finalize an offer which benefits both sides.
So, it appears as though Luongo just may be taking his talents to South Beach, it is all just a matter of time. For those Panthers fans who are unsettled on whether or not they’re happy on seeing Luongo return due to his declining play, you must look no further than defence. Last season, Luongo had Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Sami Salo, Keith Ballard and Aaron Rome play in front of him. Compare this to next season where he will have Brian Campbell – Fresh off a Lady Byng season – Dmitri Kulikov, Mike Weaver, Ed Jovanovski, Erik Gudbranson and possibly Colby Robak or another D-man play in front of him, meaning he has a huge worry off his back, as these 6-guys will make sure he sees every puck possible, and assuring him he will face as few shots as possible.
Possible other Goaltenders through Free Agency:
Martin Brodeur – Unable to lock down a contact with the New Jersey Devils, the 40-year old appears as though he’ll wear a different uniform this season for the first time in his career. Posted a 31-21-4 record last season, and led the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings.
Marty Turco – The 36-year old, long time Dallas Stars netminder went unsigned last season until March 5th, when he was signed by the Boston Bruins due to an injury to Tim Thomas. Played 5 games with the Bruins going 2-2 with a 3.68 GAA and .855 sv % , in a season he would like to put behind him. Could be a great backup to Theodore.
Brad Thiessen – Bit of a longshot, but Thiessen played formidable with the Pittsburgh Penguins farm team over the past 2 seasons, posting a 23-15-2 record last season, and a 35-8-1 record in the 2010-11 season when he won the Harry Holmes Memorial Trophy (Fewest Goals against and the Baz Bastien Memorial Trophy as the Best Goaltender in the league. At 26-years old, he would serve as a great backup, and challenger to push Markstrom.
Whether or not its Luongo returning to Florida, we will find out soon enough.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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