Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo has not yet made a decision on his plans beyond this season, notes George Richards of The Athletic (subscription required). He plans to sit down with the team at the end of the year to discuss his future. The veteran has battled through another injury-plagued season while posting the lowest save percentage of his career and has played in just 38 games as a result.
Luongo, in the past, has indicated that he plans to play out the entirety of his contract which runs for three more years after this one. However, the soon-to-be 40-year-old is set to earn a total of $3.618MM over the remainder of his deal which is significantly lower than the $5.33MM AAV of the deal.
Many expect Florida to be aggressive in free agency this summer and it has been expected for a while that they will take a run at Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. If they were to bring him in, they wouldn’t be able to afford Luongo’s cap hit as their backup, nor would they likely keep James Reimer ($3.4MM per year through 2020-21) around as well. Instead, youngster Samuel Montembeault, who is expected to get the bulk of the playing time down the stretch, could wind up as a regular on the roster next season.
Further complicating the decision for Luongo and the Panthers is the potential for salary cap recapture as they, along with Vancouver, would be on the hook for some. This was put in place to penalize long-term contracts that were heavily frontloaded and tacked on cheap years at the end for the purposes of artificially lowering the AAV. James Mirtle of The Athletic (Twitter link) broke down the approximate numbers several years ago and if Luongo was to retire following this season, Florida would be on the hook for a cap hit of $1.287MM for three years while the Canucks would carry a $2.84MM penalty for that same time.
Because of Luongo’s growing injury history, it’s also possible that the Panthers will make a case that he should just be placed on LTIR which would allow them to exceed the Upper Limit for next season without incurring any recapture penalties. We’ve seen several players with similar contracts land on LTIR in recent seasons. However, since Luongo has been able to play in 38 games (and counting) this season, it’s not a guarantee that they will be able to make the case that he won’t be able to play anymore.
Luongo had stated previously that he was hoping to be the starter in Florida as long as possible and play out the remainder of his contract. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards anymore. Instead, the question becomes what role, if any, will he have with the Panthers for 2019-20?