Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/28/12 at 05:32 PM ET
The Florida Panthers experienced a revival during the 2011-12 NHL Season, as the team made its first playoff appearance in 12 years. Besides capturing the first division title in the team’s 19-year history, the Panthers also went on to win their first playoff game since 1997, as they pushed the New Jersey Devils to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, ultimately losing in double-overtime.
The quick turnaround came at the hands of general manager Dale Tallon, who had spent the past two off-seasons acquiring a multitude of veteran players, including former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore. Despite the solid regular season, there is still plenty of uncertainty in store for the Panthers this summer, as the team has several restricted and unrestricted free agents.
In an effort to reach the salary cap floor last season, the Panthers were criticized for overpaying for free agents, helping to drive up salaries across the league. That may again be the case this summer, as the salary cap is expected to increase, and, in turn, the floor.
In the consistently weak Southeast Division, strong goaltending could very well be the key to success. While Theodore had a decent campaign, he was slowed by injuries, and doesn’t fit into Florida’s long-term plans. He will be 36 next year, and is only signed for one more season.
Both of these problems can be addressed if the organization was to sign Roberto Luongo, the Vancouver Canucks goaltender who was traded from Florida in 2006. After years of playoff disappointment in Vancouver, Luongo has, allegedly, provided a list of teams for which he would waive his no-trade clause. The Canucks were eliminated in five games this spring by the upstart Los Angeles Kings. Regardless of how true the rumors are, Florida should certainly look into re-acquiring Luongo.
The Panthers have plenty of cap room to take on the all-star’s salary, which averages $5.33 million per season - even with the demands of custom goalie equipment and memorabilia and jerseys to be sold in sports stores, such as GoalieMonkey.
A drawback to obtaining him, however, is that he is signed through 2021-22, and the team may not be interested in taking on such a large contract. Luongo signed a 12-year extension with Vancouver before the 2009-10 season. This move would provide Florida with stability in goal, and would help the team reach the salary cap floor.
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