On Monday night, the Florida Panthers lost their goaltender, Roberto Luongo, to what seems like a long-term injury. What happens next for the Panthers?
After Luongo had been sidelined earlier this year due to a hand injury, he came back better than ever and was a big part in the Panthers playing more consistent hockey. It seemed that Luongo was operating at full health, and the Panthers would be able to rely on his stellar goaltending to not only hold the lead for them, but to single handily win games for them. All that vanished as Luongo went down in a huge amount of pain after he stopped a shot with his right pad.
While nothing is confirmed yet, it’s likely that Luongo will miss an extended period of time this season. For Luongo, due to his age, this could possibly determine if his goaltending days may be over, or if he will make yet another comeback and return to guard the cage. Regardless of what happens to Luongo career wise, the Panthers will be missing him in the net for some period of time; if not for the entire rest of the season.
Obviously, this is a big loss for the Cats. They have relied on Luongo’s stellar goaltending this entire season, and by losing him, it could completely destroy any possibility of the Panthers having a chance of at least making a postseason push.
Hopefully for Roberto’s health and for the Panthers’ season, he will be able to return soon, but the Panthers must quickly think about their future for this season, and for the seasons down the road. So, what are the possible options for the Panthers moving forward? Let’s take a look.
When the Panthers signed James Reimer to a long term contract last offseason, it was obvious that the Cats were expecting to mold Reimer eventually into a starting role once Luongo would retire. Reimer had been in a similar situation with the Toronto Maple Leafs before, but he also never solidified himself as the starting goalie as he only started a maximum of 35 games while in his rookie season.
At least for this season (unless the Panthers pull off a mega trade), it seems like it will be Reimer’s job to guard the net. So far, through 14 games, Reimer has struggled. He’s gone 4-6-3, holds a goal against average (GAA) of 3.67, and a save percentage (SV%) of .892. If Reimer keeps this up, the Panthers season will continue to crumble.
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He must step up to the plate, and perform better. Any team that doesn’t have a strong starting goalie will falter, and the Panthers are for sure no exception to that. James must channel his inner Luongo and play solid hockey.
The Panthers most likely will not be pulling off a trade for a goaltender in the middle of the season, so this might be Reimer’s last chance to prove to the Cats organization that he deserves to be the starting goalie of the future.
If he falters and performs like he has this season, the Panthers may have to swallow their pride and trade him away to get rid of his contract. It’s completely up to Reimer to show that he deserves to be a starting NHL goalie.
As far as getting the backup for the Panthers, they will probably turn to Harri Sateri from the AHL. Harri has posted a decent record of 5-6-0, a goals against average (GAA) of 2.76, and a save percentage (SV%) of .906. These stats are not great for a goalie playing in the AHL, but he will still probably get the call up because there are simply no better options.
The Panthers also have Sam Montembeault in the AHL who is a highly touted prospect. At the young age of 21 and in his first season in the AHL, he has struggled mightily going: 3-9-0, a goals against average (GAA) of 3.26, and a save percentage (SV%) .895. While he is still young, this should not be extremely concerning for the Panthers, but he should probably continue to develop and get full-time action in the AHL rather than sit on the bench in a Panthers uniform.
All in all, the Panthers will probably be sending Reimer out as their starting goalie for a while, if not the entire year. The way he performs could either make or break this season as the Panthers are playing well enough to at least compete in games. It’s up to Reimer to step up and take over the starting goalie reins.