And now the goaltender is officially part of the franchise again.
Florida’s all-time leader in wins and shutouts has agreed to become a special adviser to general manager Dale Tallon, a move that has been in the works for some time and was formally announced Wednesday.
His hiring was no surprise: Luongo has been a regular fixture at games with the Florida front-office brain trust this season, only now wearing suits instead of skates and having conversations in press boxes instead of locker rooms.
"I’ve had the honour and privilege to work with Roberto during his time playing for the Panthers and am proud to welcome him to our franchise’s hockey operations staff," said Tallon, who is both Florida’s GM and president of hockey operations.
The 40-year-old Luongo retired this past summer after 19 seasons in the NHL, 11 of them with Florida, and indicated then that he would be interested in staying with the Panthers in some capacity. His plan was to take some time and figure out in what role, and how quickly.
Turns out, the five-time NHL All-Star didn’t need that long to think.
Luongo and his family are remaining as residents of Parkland, Florida — the city where he lived at the end of his playing career — and since he’s sticking around, it was always assumed that he was going to be with Tallon again before long.
"Roberto always approached every game with an unmatched work ethic and we are confident he will take to this new role with the same passion," Tallon said. "A cornerstone player in our franchise’s history, we are thrilled that Lu will be a part of shaping our franchise’s future."
Luongo joins Panthers senior vice-president Shawn Thornton, director of player personnel Bryan McCabe and assistant coach Derek MacKenzie as former Florida players who have remained with the team after retirement in various key roles.
The Panthers are retiring Luongo’s No. 1 jersey on March 7, before a game against Montreal, his hometown team.
Luongo was the fourth overall pick in the 1997 draft by the New York Islanders, with whom he made his NHL debut on Nov. 28, 1999. Luongo then spent five years with Florida, the next eight with Vancouver and returned to the Panthers on March 14, 2014. His last game was April 6, two days after his 40th birthday.