It was a rough season for the 40 year old future hall of fame goaltender. Twelve minutes into the 2nd period on opening night, Frank Vatrano fell into Roberto Luongo’s leg that kicked off an injury plagued, frustrating season. Yes, there were some bright spots, but overall, even Luongo admitted it was a disappointing year.
With a record of 18-16-5 and a stat line of 3.12 GAA and .899 sv%, Luongo posted quite a few career lows. It was the first time in his career he finished a season with a sv% below .900, a stat that I am sure will bother him long after he has retired. If we dive into the advanced stats, the numbers don’t get much better. At 5 on 5 he had the 2nd worst medium danger save percentage in the NHL at .871 and was 32nd out of 43 goalies with a high danger save percentage of 79.08. Shockingly enough, Carey Price was 33rd in that category.
On the positive end, Luongo was once again stellar when it comes to his low danger save percentage at 98.07, but when that is all you have to hang your hat on, it’s not ideal. Another positive is that there were stretches of great play from Luongo. The ability to be a great goalie is still there, it just comes less and less often. In his early days, you could count on Luo to steal a game once a week. I can’t remember many games where I felt that way this past year.
Another issue Luongo dealt with all season was injuries. This past season marked the 3rd season in a row Luongo missed substantial time due to injury. He’s played in 103 games total over the last 3 years. While some of those missed games are standard night’s off, that’s still too many missed games for the guy who is supposed to be your #1 goalie. The hip and knee injuries have sapped the athleticism that made him one of the game’s best goalies.
Here is the sad truth, at 40 year’s old, Roberto Luongo’s body can’t handle the rigors of being a #1 goaltender in the NHL. Age is undefeated, and Father Time has finally caught up to Bobby Lou. However, at clean out day, Roberto finally admitted that he knows his days as a #1 goalie are over.
So where do the Panthers go from here with Bobby Luo? Well, Luongo seems to want to return and is happy to be the backup to whoever is brought in as the new #1 goalie COUGHBOBROVSKYCOUGH, but Luongo’s $4.533 million cap hit for three more seasons is not what anybody wants to pay a backup goalie.
Assuming the new #1 goalie is paid $8.5+ million, that’s just too much money to reasonably spend on a #2 goaltender, but the Panthers appear to be willing to consider that situation if the cap allows it. However, that likely results in a forward like Mike Hoffman becoming a cap casualty. If we are being honest with each other, Mike Hoffman provides more value to the 2019-2020 Florida Panthers than Roberto Luongo as the #2 goalie, but it is possible that the organization feels otherwise.
During the season, the message from the organization was that Roberto Luongo would be able to choose his ending. That message started to fade as the season reached it’s conclusion. During exit day meetings, both Luongo and Tallon were non-committal about Luongo’s future, saying that they would touch base in a couple weeks. Then last week in an interview with George Richards of The Athletic, Joel Quenneville was very non-committal saying he did not know if Luongo would return next year. It seems clear that the organization is thinking with their head and not as much with their heart as they were a few months back.
Luongo has said that he will do what is best for the organization. If the decision is made that his cap space is needed, the likely destination for Luongo is Long Term Injured Reserve. The cap recapture on his contract means he won’t retire and have his last impact in the NHL be a cap penalty on the Panthers and Vancouver Canucks. If Luongo plans to head into LTIRement, a trade will likely be in his future. However, a trade back to Vancouver is not possible because they have retained a portion of Luongo’s salary and therefore are ineligible to trade for him again. (Don’t ask me to explain how this makes sense because I can’t.)
In real money, Luongo is only owed $1.6 million real dollars next season and $1 million each year after that for the rest of his contract. It’s an attractive contract for a team like the Ottawa Senators who will be trying to reach the cap floor while spending as few real dollars possible. Could a trade be in Luongo’s future? I wouldn’t rule it out.
It was not a good season for Luongo. This isn’t the end he wants. In a perfect world, Roberto Luongo would be an ideal backup goaltender for next year’s Panthers. He is a steady veteran who has been to the Stanley Cup Finals. He would be a great #2 to a guy like Bobrovksy. But this isn’t a perfect world and his cap hit is still what it is.
Luongo seems to want to give it one more go. However, if the Florida Panthers’ off-season plans come to fruition, he may not have a choice. The organization wants to do right by Luongo and give him the storybook ending. He’s certainly earned it. But unfortunately, the cap crunch may be too much and it could be that the next time we see Roberto Luongo’s #1 jersey on the ice, it will be as it is raised to the rafters.