“Exciting day for the Florida Panthers,” Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said this afternoon as Roberto Luongo met the media less than 24-hours after an unexpected trade landed him back with his former team.
“I’m excited to have one of the elite players in the world sitting by my side and being a Florida Panther. Welcome back Roberto, it’s fantastic to have you in the fold.”
Once the team’s most recognizable face, Luongo played for the Panthers from 1999-2006 and still holds most of the franchise’s all-time goalie records, including most wins (108), most shutouts (26), most shutouts in a season (7), most wins in a season (35) and most games played in net (317).
“It took a while, there were some other teams that were involved along the way,” Luongo said of his journey back to Florida. “In the end, when I was least expecting it, something happened. I’m here today and I’m excited about this opportunity moving forward.”
Having been a part of two very public goaltender battles in recent history with former teammates Cory Schneider and Eddie Lack, Luongo is happy to be the Panthers’ number one goaltender with newly acquired netminder, Dan Ellis, serving as his backup.
“It feels good to feel wanted from an organization,” Luongo said of being the Panthers’ number one goalie. ” You just want to have that peace of mind that no matter what happens out there you know you’re going to have the next game. You don’t have to worry about that stuff and can just keep playing.”
The team’s projected starter for the next several years, Luongo, 34, is currently playing through a contract that runs until the end of the 2021-22 season with an annual cap hit of $5.33 million, although the Canucks will retain 15% of his salary.
With his current contract scheduled to take him into his early 40’s, Luongo was hopeful that he will be able to play through the contract’s entirety and finish his career in Florida.
“There’s two things that are going to decide that,” Luongo said of playing through the 2021-22 season. “First, my desire to win, which is probably at its highest right now so that’s good. (Second) Obviously my body and how it’s going to hold up once I get into the latter part of the contract. I’ve been healthy most of my career. I haven’t had any major injures. I’d love to play into my 40’s and the fact that I’m playing here in Florida really makes it easier to keep playing as opposed to maybe thinking about stopping.”
After already a very active trade deadline for the Panthers, Luongo hopes that his signing will not only help the team’s goals-against average, but also increase the team’s appeal to other free agents in the upcoming years.
“I’m hoping that it shows other free agents that it is a serious organization and the new ownership is definitely committed to winning,” said Luongo. “When you know the ownership is committed to winning it really does tend to attract players that want to come play. This is a great place to live.”
Currently boasting a .917 save percentage with a 2.38 goals-against average with no signs of slowing down, Luongo brings a calm to a usually tumultuous goal tending situation in South Florida for the foreseeable future.
“A lot of people think I want to come here and ride into the sunset, but that’s not what it’s all about,” said Luongo. “I’m here to win. I want to bring this team back to the playoffs.”
Trocheck Makes NHL Debut Friday
With roster spots opening up after the trading of F Marcel Goc and re-assignment of F Drew Shore, the Panthers have decided to call-up former second round pick Vincent Trocheck from the San Antonio Rampage (AHL). Trocheck, 20, has recorded a team-leading 41 points (16-25-41) in 54 games with San Antonio in his first professional season.
Panthers Searching For Luongo’s Successor
With the departure of top-goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom to Vancouver, Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said the team would be on the lookout for an eventual successor to current goaltender Roberto Luongo. Tallon said that the team will be actively looking in the draft, free agency and overseas for the next great young Panther netminder.
Winchester’s Future Uncertain
After not being dealt by today’s trade deadline, upcoming UFA forward Jesse Winchester’s future with the Panthers is still uncertain. When asked about the possibility of bringing back Winchester – who has eight goals this season – Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said talks of a contract extension have yet to come up.
“We’re real happy with Jesse,” said Tallon. “We haven’t opened up that discussion yet. He’s played really well.”
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