Roberto Luongo Retires, Erik Haula Traded


When the recent NHL season came to an end it looked about 70-30 that Florida Panthers’ veteran goalie Roberto Luongo would hang up his skates, pads and gloves. The odds changed to 100 per cent on June 26th as the 40-year-old native of Montreal, Quebec officially announced his retirement after 19 seasons.

And speaking of 100 per cent, it’s a guarantee that Luongo will one day be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame as recognition for his sparkling career.

Making the announcement before July 1st makes sense since the Panthers now have a chance at replacing Luongo during the upcoming free agency market as they have some additional salary-cap space to work with. Fans shouldn’t be surprised if general manager Dale Tallon also tries to move backup netminder James Reimer and his $3.4 million salary if possible as it still has two years to go.

It’s no secret Tallon would love to land former Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky and his Russian teammate, sniper Artemi Panarin, from the Columbus Blue Jackets as they’re both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Both players have already met with Tallon recently to discuss their options.

The popular Luongo used his heavily-followed Twitter account to announce his decision and also wrote an open letter to his fans. He admitted that he wanted to keep playing since he feels the Panthers are close to becoming a legitimate contender but realizes his body is having a hard time dealing with the rigors of a lengthy NHL season.

He leaves the sport he loves with 489 regular-season wins to rank third all time in NHL history behind hall of famers Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy. However, Brodeur is the only one to have played more regular season games than Luongo and to make more saves than Luongo’s 28,409. Luongo retires with a better save percentage than Brodeur and Roy though at 91.9, which ranks 10th best all time.

Luongo’s regular-season numbers read 1,044 games played with a goals-against average of 2.52, a 91.9 save percentage and 77 shutouts. His record was 489-392-124 and he played at least 70 games a season on four occasions. In the playoffs, he played 70 games with a 34-35 mark along with a 2.49 GAA a 91.8 save percentage and five shutouts. He went just 18-16-5 this season though as he once again struggled with injuries and posted a 3.12 GAA with an 89.9 save percentage and a lone shutout.

Luongo never won the Stanley Cup but was a two-time NHL Second Team All-Star. He made it to the final in 2010/11 but his Vancouver Canucks were beaten 4-0 in game seven at home as the Boston Bruins hoisted the trophy. Luongo did take home some silverware for his international performances as he helped Canada capture the gold medal at the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games.

He won a pair of golds at the IIHF World Championships in 2003 and 2004 and played on the winning side at the World Cup of Hockey tournament in 2004. He never won a major individual NHL award either but was a three-time finalist for the Vezina Trophy, a two-time nominee for the Lester B. Pearson Award and a finalist for the Hart Memorial and Bill Masterton Memorial Trophies. He did share the William Jennings Trophy with Canucks’ teammate Cory Schneider in 2010/11 when the team allowed the fewest goals against in the league.

The New York Islanders originally had the foresight to draft Luongo as a youngster by taking him in the 1997 NHL Draft with the fourth overall pick out of Acadie Bathurst-Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He debuted in the NHL in November, 1999 and never looked back. Luongo was traded to Florida following his rookie season and spent five seasons in the south before being dealt to Vancouver in 2006. He was then dealt back to Florida just before the trade deadline in 2014.

Luongo set several team marks and milestones with both the Canucks and Panthers and also served as Vancouver’s captain from 2008 to 2010. He now plans on remaining in Parkland, Florida as he calls the area home and it’s possible he’ll stay with the Panthers organization in some capacity. With Luongo retiring, there’s a trickle-down affect regarding his salary. He had three years to go on his contract at $3.62 million annually and will be giving up approximately $10 million in pay by hanging up his skates.

As good as Luongo was, the Canucks made a big mistake by signing him to a ridiculous 12-year front-loaded contract back in 2009 worth $64 million and will now be paying for that error in judgment. The Canucks are on the hook for $3,033,206 a year for the next three seasons due to the NHL’s somewhat complicated recapture penalty while the Panthers will have to use up $1,094,128 in cap space annually over the next three years.

Luongo’s retirement wasn’t the only NHL news on June 26th as the Vegas Golden Knights traded year-old forward Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes for a conditional fifth-round draft pick in 2021 and 22-year-old forward prospect Nicolas Roy. The youngster played half a dozen games with Carolina last season while spending the rest of his time with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL where he racked up 36 points in 69 games on 17 goals and 19 assists. Roy was taken by the Hurricanes in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Draft.

It seems a bit of an odd move on Vegas’ part but the team recently signed forward William Karlsson to a new deal for eight years at $5.9 million a season and needed some salary cap space. The 28-year-old Haula still had a season to go on his three-year deal at $2.75 for 2019-20. Haula missed most of last season with a knee injury and netted seven points in 15 games. However, he pocketed 29 goals and 26 helpers for 55 points in 76 outings in the Golden Knights’ inaugural season.

The native of Finland has scored 151 NHL points on 73 goals and 78 assists in 357 regular-season games with Vegas and the Minnesota Wild. He was selected by Minnesota in 2009 in the seventh round of the NHL draft. This looks like a good pickup for the Hurricanes.