Since day one of the Panthers' off-season, the Roberto Luongo trade rumors to Florida have reared their not-so-ugly head seemingly every other day. Arguably the best goaltender the team ever had, Luongo set franchise records for Games Played, Wins, Saves, and Shutouts, along with the single-season save percentage record of .931 (which he achieved in 72 games) in 2003-04.
After the jump, my five arguments as to why the Cats should re-acquire Bobby Lou...
1. Luongo is an amazing goalie!
Top ten goaltenders of all-time by GVT
Eight of the ten players listed are in the Hall of Fame, and the other two will/should be in when they end their careers. Luongo finished 12 in the NHL in save percentage and eighth in even strength save percentage. Luongo finished 77th overall in GVT, 15th for goalies, behind Antti Niemi by 0.3 and ahead of Semyon Varlamov by 1.3.
2. He's a huge upgrade over Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen
Saying Luongo is an upgrade over Theo and Clemmy is an understatement. As Cee Lo Green would say "Roberto Luongo is an Xbox, Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen are an Atari". While Jose Theodore did post his best GVT since 07-08, and his best post-lockout save percentage, he'll also be 36 in September. Clemmensen, who turned 35 in July, has been a solid backup, but inconsistent during long stretches. Factor in the loss of Jason Garrison, the Panthers best player by GVT, and downgrade of Filip Kuba, the Panthers are going to need help repeating their team .914 Sv%. Luongo, who will be 33 in April, is one of the most consistent goaltenders in the NHL, and has posted a better Sv% then both goalies since the lockout.
3. It helps G Jacob Markstrom
The Panthers want Markstrom to spend another year in the AHL with San Antonio, which is reasonable. But what about 2013-14? Clemmensen is the only goalie signed to a one-way contract next season, and if/when Markstrom is re-signed, he'll be the best goalie on the roster. So rather than tossing him into a starting role with a inconsistent backup, why not have Markstrom backup and learn from one of the best goaltenders to ever play hockey? Boston and Vancouver have done the exact approach, with Cory Schneider having the best quality start percentage for the last three seasons and Tuukka Rask having a career .926 Sv%. Heck, the Panthers did the same with Craig Anderson and Tomas Vokoun, which almost got them into the playoffs.
4. It gives Florida a chance to make the playoffs
The Tampa Bay Lightning have quietly boosted their team into contention in the Southeast. In fact, it weren't for the Wild signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, they would have been the most improved team over the off-season, with the addition of huge goalie Anders Lindback, defensemen Matt Carle, Sami Salo and Matt Taormina, and scoring depth forwards Benoit Pouliot and Kyle Wilson. The Jets added more offensive firepower with Olli Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky, and the Hurricanes added Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. The Capitals, the most offensively talented team in the division, added Mike Ribeiro. Oh, and Wojtek Wolski.
The Panthers however, added Kuba on D, George Parros (if you want to call him an addition), and fellow forward Peter Mueller. Unless a trade happens, Florida is likely going to score the least amount of goals in the division, but that doesn't mean all hope is lost. A 2-1 win is worth as many points as a 5-3 win, and with Luongo on the roster, the Panthers will have the best goaltending in the division. It also pushes the Cats from negative change in GVT, to positive change. Which will leave only the Caps as the only team in the division to "lose" goals.
5. His contract might actually help
Luongo's cap hit is $5,333,333, Ed Jovanovski's cap hit is $4,125,000, while Kuba clocks in at $4,000,000 (with a no-movement clause). Jovo and Kuba are 35+ contracts, which under the current CBA means even if both players retire, the cap hit stays with the Panthers. With the bulk of Dale Tallon's draftees expected to contribute to the NHL roster in the final year of Jovanovski's contract (2014-15), and the salary cap showing no sign of decreasing, the Panthers will need a player, beside Brian Campbell, to take up a large chunk of the payroll. And who better than a guy who can contribute in the NHL and has a $5 Million cap hit?
- The Panthers get the best player ever to suit up for them back in the fold, and unlike Jovo, in his prime
- Veteran leadership in the locker room, if you're into that, but better yet...
- Veteran leadership that will help a young, developing defensive prospect corps
- He reportedly wants to return
- He brings Star Power and name recognition (locally) to a team that doesn't have much, for what that's worth
If Luongo were a comic, he'd be Rodney Dangerfield. He's one of best goalies in the NHL, remains in his prime, and yet can't find any respect! Perhaps he'll finally get the respect he deserves when the Florida Panthers get engraved into Lord Stanley's Cup.