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No Surprise: Luongo Returning for 19th NHL Season

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

SUNRISE, Fla. - Roberto Luongo isn't done just yet.

The 39-year-old goaltender announced during Thursday's locker cleanout at BB&T Center that he would undoubtedly be taking his rightful place between the pipes for the Florida Panthers in 2018-19 - his 11th season in South Florida and 19th overall in his Hall of Fame-worthy career.

"I'm not going anywhere," said Luongo, chuckling as if it was even a question.

Although injuries limited him to just 33 starts, Luongo is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, posting an 18-11-2 record with three shutouts, a 2.47 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage - his best since 2003-04 during his first stint with the Panthers.

With Florida's season hanging in the balance, Luongo was spectacular down the stretch, going 3-0-0 with a 1.59 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in four appearances to help the Panthers become just the 13th team in NHL history to earn five wins in seven days.

He was named the NHL's "Second Star of the Week" for the week ending April 8.

"With the run we had and falling short, it's tough to reflect on [the season] and feel good about yourself," Luongo said. "I think it's going to take a couple weeks to get over the fact that we fell short. Right now, I'm just trying to deal with the disappointment of not making the playoffs."

Luongo said he expects to play "in an ideal world" between 50-60 games next season.

"At the beginning of the year I always start off with the goal of 82," Luongo said with a grin. "I want to play all of them, but then that dwindles down. You don't see a goalie play 70-75 games anymore. If they do, I don't think it's healthy because the game's so much harder than it was to play before."

A first-round pick (fourth overall) of the New York Islanders in 1997, Luongo has posted a 471-376-33-86 record with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. His 471 wins are the fourth-most in NHL history, while his 76 shutouts are tied for ninth.

On April 5, Luongo - a day after his 39th birthday -- became just the third goaltender in history to play in 1,000 NHL games, joining Hall of Famers Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy. Of his 1,001 NHL games, 529 have come with the Panthers, which is a franchise record for goaltenders.

Luongo, who is signed through the 2021-22 season, is Florida's all-time leader in wins (212) and shutouts (37).

"I had a good talk with Lu today," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "He feels good. You look at his age - he's 39 years old - and how he came back from injuries this year. You look at his save percentage and his numbers when he was at his best. He can still be one of the better goalies in the league."

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