The team will miss the playoffs for the 16th time this century and the veteran goaltender earlier this week suggested he’s going to assess his playing future in the summer.
“This season has been very difficult,” Luongo said prior to allowing five goals in drubbing courtesy of the Maple Leafs on Monday. “After [the season’s over], we’ll sit down — myself and the team — and figure this out.”
Luongo ranks second all-time in games played by a goalie behind Martin Brodeur, third in wins behind Brodeur and Patrick Roy and he’ll likely join those two in the Hockey Hall of Fame one day.
This season, however, his save percentage has dipped below .900 for the first time in his two-decade NHL career and his 3.19 goals-against average is his worst GAA since his rookie campaign with the New York Islanders back in 1999-00.
He’s only 628 saves away from breaking Brodeur’s record of 28,928. It’s unachievable this year but he could do it if he returns to the crease next season, even in a reduced role, although at this point nothing is guaranteed.
“I still love to play the game. We’ll see where it goes. I haven’t really made a decision one way or another,” Luongo said via The Athletic (subscription required). “It’s going to be important once the season is over to talk to [Panthers general manager Dale Tallon] and management and coaches and see what the plans for the future are. And hopefully they involve me somewhere. I understand I’m not 30 years old anymore and I can’t take on a 50-, 60-game workload. But if there’s any way for me to contribute, I’d love to do that.”
Only the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators allow more goals per game than the Panthers despite Florida allowing the 10th-fewest shots against per game.
Backup James Reimer is under contract for another two years at $3.4 million per season, while 22-year-old pending restricted free agent Samuel Montembeault has made 10 appearances in March in the hopes of impressing management enough to secure a roster spot going forward.
Where the soon-to-be-40-year-old Luongo figures into Florida’s 2019-20 plans isn’t crystal clear and it’s something Tallon and the team must sort out the in the off-season.
Accepting a trade doesn’t appear to be in the cards for the Montreal native.
“This is home,” Luongo explained. “To move my family, my children from where they are happy? I couldn’t do that. Family comes first.”
Ed Jovanovski was teammates briefly with Luongo in 2014 and the retired defenceman told Sportsnet 650 Wednesday it’s tough seeing a player of Luongo’s status get phased out.
“Louie’s been such a pro for so many years,” Jovanovski said. “Obviously, his Hall of Fame stats, I believe he’s a shoo-in. … I think for Louie there’s going to be some gut-wrenching decisions. You’re seeing what they’re doing with Montembeault, now Reimer coming back and playing. It’s going to be one of those decisions I think he’s going to sit down at the end of the year with his family and talk with Dale and the management here and see what’s the best situation for him.”
The three-time Vezina Trophy finalist has three more seasons remaining on the whopping 12-year, $64-million contract he signed nearly a decade ago when he was a star with the Vancouver Canucks.
If Luongo were to retire this summer it would have a financial impact on both the Panthers and Canucks since it was his former club that signed him to his now-outdated monster contract.
As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed out in his latest 31 Thoughts column, Luongo is owed $3.618 million in actual dollars over the course of the next three seasons despite his annual salary cap hit being $5,333,333. The Canucks would face a salary cap hit penalty of $2,840,124 in each of the next three seasons if he calls it quits, while Luongo’s Florida cap hit would be reduced to $1,287,209.
“I was very vocal about those contracts and really annoyed at the way the league basically tailored these in,” Brian Burke told Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday. “These contracts were clearly cap circumvention. The league arbitrated it with the Kovalchuk case and won, so I have no pity if there’s cap recapture here.
“I have no pity on any of the teams involved or any of the players involved, but focus on the player. This is a player who’s had a great career and it would be a sad day if he does hang it up.”