Florida Panthers’ #1 netminder, Roberto Luongo, is 39 years of age going on 40 very soon. A suitable, young option will have to replace Luongo in a couple years time.
One of the offseason priorities for the Florida Panthers this summer is finding a future replacement for Roberto Luongo. While some may argue that finding a replacement isn’t on the top of the bucket list, most will admit that it’s something the Panthers will need to get to, eventually.
At best, Lu has one, maybe two seasons left in him. It’s worth noting that a season in Luongo’s book isn’t a full 82 game season, it’s more in the range of 35-40 games, relying on the backup (James Reimer in this case) to step in and carry the other half of the load. This trend can’t go on forever, and the Panthers can’t continue to ride the Luongo gravy train forever either. So the time for finding a suitable replacement is now, but where do the Panthers even start?
For one, they could look internally, and weigh their options with who they have in the pipelines. A name that will likely be thrown around is Samuel Montembault, the 21-year-old goaltender who comes from Becancour, Quebec. Sam has been tooted as the Panthers’ #1 goalie for the future, holding a lot of promise and potential.
Unfortunately, that promise and potential wasn’t quite met this season in the AHL, shown by a poor SV% of .896. While the figure is quite low for a ‘promising netminder,’ take into account the team that Samuel played for: Springfield Thunderbirds (6th worst team in the AHL). Montembeault certainly wasn’t at his best during the 2017-18 campaign, but neither was his team. Sam’s low SV% is in direct result of his backline, repeatedly left hung to dry on numerous occasions.
Sam Montembeault at this point isn’t a guaranteed candidate. No one knows where Samuel’s development will lead him to, so solely relying on the development of one young goaltender is risky. The second route the Panthers could take is the trade market, which a lot of teams go to.
With little goaltending prospects in the minors, Dale may have to strike a trade in order to grab the future replacement for Roberto Luongo. One goalie Dale could look at is Juuse Saros, the 23-year-old Finnish netminder for the Nashville Predators. Yes, I know what a lot of you are going to say, “he’s the future replacement for Pekka Rinne, so there’s no way the Preds give him away.”
True, the Preds most likely won’t give Juuse Saros away, knowing that Rinne is 35-years-old and is one injury away of calling it a career. But, Juuse Saros is on the final year of his entry-level contract, making him a RFA this summer. The Panthers could throw him an offer (which is very, very rare in today’s game) and hope that the Preds don’t match it. Ideally, obtaining Saros would be a pipe dream, despite the fact that he would look great in a Cats uniform. Although, the Panthers could turn their attention to another young Predators’ prospect: Miroslav Svoboda.
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The 6’3, 23-year-old Czech netminder played for HC Plzen in the Czech league this year, and held a respectable SV% of .926 in 47 games played. The Predators know very well that Saros is their #1 guy for the future, and even losing Svoboda via trade would hardly hurt their future in the crease. For the Cats, acquiring Svoboda’s services would likely cost next to nothing, as the asking price would be very low (minor league player, maybe a low round draft pick).
Some other options the Panthers could look at via trade could be: Linus Soderstrom (NYI), Ville Husso (STL), Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (BUF), and Igor Shestyorkin (NYR). Regardless, those are just a few options to list, and if Dale Tallon chooses to go down the trade path, he’ll have to know exactly who he’s targeting and how creative he might have to get in his deal.
The last option the Panthers could take would be the free agency route, which is the route I’d avoid. Usually, there are never really young, starting netminders on the free agent block to start with, and if there are any, you can sure bet that they’re going to get a big payday all right! One goaltender who will be a RFA this upcoming summer is 26-year-old netminder Philipp Grubauer of the Washington Capitals.
Philipp has been Holtby’s ‘understudy’ for quite a while now, and with his contract set to expire after the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you can sure bet that there will be lots of suitors ready to throw offers at the German netminder. Despite only being a RFA, the Capitals have their fair share of cap problems, and won’t be able to afford Grubauer’s asking price. That means that the Capitals’ hands are tied at this point, set to lose their current backup in the months coming. For Washington, they already have their future backup in Ilya Samsonov, so losing Philipp won’t hurt too much.
For the Panthers, this may very well be Dale Tallon’s target this offseason, but the Cats need to be cautious, especially with throwing long-term deals around. It’s expected that Grubauer will ask for a 5-6 year deal, in the field of $4-5 million annually. Personally, I’d rather not be the team who gives Philipp his first payday, but I can understand the excitement and interest that Panthers’ fans hold with the possibility of signing a young, solid goaltender like Philipp Grubauer.
So, after weighing all the options, the best routes to take would be #1 (looking internally) and #2 (acquiring via trade). While there’s always the option of drafting a goaltender in this upcoming draft, there really isn’t much out there, nor is there much selection overseas to sign either, at this current time.
Dale knows that finding a suitable replacement for Luongo is key, and he also knows that he’s going to have to get creative in order to find his guy, but what’s 100% true is that he needs to start his search now, and not wait until Luongo’s expiry date occurs.