After watching the extremely talented Roberto Luongo ink a 12-year, $64M extension with the Vancouver Canucks today, the Islanders must be kicking themselves once again.
When the New York Islanders selected Luongo with the fourth overall pick of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, he became the highest picked goaltender in NHL history. They had invested a lot of hope in the talented Canadian goalie and were ecstatic when he debuted on Long Island.
He made his NHL debut on November 28, 1999, and stopped 43 shots en route to a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. He recorded his first NHL shutout a month later with a 3-0 win over the very same Bruins. He shared starts for the remainder of the season and had a stellar 3.25 GAA and .904 save percentage in 24 games at the age of only 19.
Yet, for some the reason the Islanders did something Islandersish (aka stupid) and traded the young star goalie to Florida at the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, along with Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha…yes, that sentence is somehow a fact.
But wait…it gets better.
Luongo went on to put up great GAA and save percentage numbers for the Panthers and emerged as a top goalie with a Vezina Trophy nomination in the 2003-04 season. He set the record for most shots faced (2,475) and most saves (2,303) in a single season. He posted a 2.43 GAA and .931 save pct, but still finished second to Sean Avery’s eventual
groomsman, Martin Brodeur.
When the dust cleared after the lockout, Luongo was at his best, posting a career-high 35 wins and 8 shutouts in 2005-06. Soon after, speculation was growing that he was asking for too much in the form of a new contract and a new goaltending coach be hired.
So for some unknown reason the Panthers seemingly one-upped the Islanders (in the stupidity department) and traded away the dynamic goalie to Vancouver for the troubled Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, and Alex Auld.
Bertuzzi went on to play in only SEVEN games for the Panthers and this has to be considered one of the more lopsided trades in the history of sports.
Since becoming the main in net for Vancouver, Luongo has recorded 115 victories in three seasons – exactly half of his 230 wins over his nine year NHL career – including 47 in 2006-07.
Now, the Islanders can only feel the sting as the salt continues to pour into their open wound after trading the all-World goalie to Florida for a couple mediocre seasons out of Mark Parrish and covering up one of the franchise’s worst moves by over-committing to the mediocre Rick DiPietro in the form of a 15-year contract.