Finally, it appears that Roberto Luongo is getting his wish: a return to South Florida.
Numbers Game looks into the deal sending Luongo back to Florida, leaving the Canucks with a decidedly different goaltending picture than they had one year ago.
The Panthers Get: G Roberto Luongo and LW Steven Anthony.
Luongo, 34, has been a strong starting goaltender for a long time. Even this season, as he has been dealing with a challenge for playing time from Eddie Lack, Luongo has a .917 save percentage, which ranks 16th out of 37 goaltenders to play in at least 25 games this season. Over the past four seasons, Luongo's even-strength save percentage (.929) ranks sixth among goaltenders with at least 5000 minutes played.
Now, that Luongo has been effective to this point is no great secret, but the question is how long he will remain an effective starter. He's under contract, at a cap hit of $5.333M per season, through 2021-2022 and it's pretty easy to forecast that Luongo won't be playing at such a high level at that point. Can he be an above-average starter through 37 or 38-years-old? That would probably be the best-case scenario.
Aside from Luongo's level of play, there is some value to his contract for the Panthers. Even with the Canucks picking up a portion of the contract, Florida is a team that, to this point, has faced more challenges getting to the floor than staying under the cap. If that means that five years from now their backup goaltender costs more than $5-million, then it may not be a huge issue.
Where the finances get especially tricky is if Luongo retires before the end of his contract, because it is a prime candidate for the recapturing device implemented in the latest collective bargaining agreement and, according to Cap Geek, the Canucks could face a hefty cap hit if Luongo doesn't play out his entire deal.
So, taking a step past the financial ramifications and getting back on the ice, the Panthers have upgraded their goaltending and for a team with improving possession numbers, an above average goaltender could be enough to put them back in the playoff hunt as soon as next season.
Anthony is a 22-year-old winger who has been buried in the low minors, scoring 45 points in 108 games between the ECHL and CHL over the past three seasons. He played junior with Jonathan Huberdeau, but Anthony is too far away from the NHL to think that's going to be a factor that will increase his stature in the organization.
The Canucks Get: G Jacob Markstrom and C Shawn Matthias.
Markstrom is a 24-year-old who has long been considered a top prospect since he was the 31st overall pick in 2008, but there have been some bumps in the road that have put his future into question.
In 43 career games, Markstrom has an .898 save percentage. Since 2005-2006, that ranks 88th out of 105 goaltenders with at least 40 games played, numbers brought down by an abysmal start (.874 SV% in 12 GP) to this season.
Since he was returned to the AHL, Markstrom has posted a .918 save percentage in 29 games and has a .917 save percentage in 131 career AHL games, which is decent enough to get another look in the NHL, particularly with a new team that has an opening on the NHL roster.
Markstrom currently has to be considered behind Eddie Lack on the depth chart. 26-year-old Lack, who has a .924 save percentage in 25 games this season, isn't nearly established enough in the starter's role that the job won't be up for a more open competition in the future. Markstrom has the pedigree and was the starter for Brynas IF Gavle in the Swedish Elite League in 2009-2010, when Lack was his backup.
Matthias, 26, is a 6-foot-4 centre who teases every so often (like scoring five points in the past two games, or tying for second on the Panthers with 14 goals last season) with occasional offensive ability, but he hasn't been terribly productive, scoring 97 points in 312 career games. His puck possession stats have been subpar even while facing lesser opposition.
With the Canucks apparently heading toward rebuilding, there should be some opportunity for Matthias to play regular minutes and establish whether or not he's a legitimate top-nine forward. To this point in his career, the answer to that very much depends on the day.
Matthias is under contract through next season with a cap hit of $1.75-million.
In the end, the Canucks have precious little to show for what was once one of the game's top goaltending tandems. A year ago, they had Cory Schneider and Luongo, now both are gone and the Canucks have Matthias and a couple of prospects (Markstrom and ninth overall pick Bo Horvat) in return.
If the Canucks take a hit on the salary cap because of recapture five or six years down the road, well, that's just a bitter aftertaste to a situation that hasn't been very pleasant for the past couple seasons anyway.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.