Florida Panthers Ruling out Luongo by Signing Top Goalie Prospect?

Eric Steitz@esteitz16Analyst IIIJuly 9, 2012

Are the 'Cats still in the hunt for Luongo after signing another goaltender?
Are the 'Cats still in the hunt for Luongo after signing another goaltender?Rich Lam/Getty Images

Rumor had it that Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo could be headed to the Florida Panthers. He has expressed interest in a move to Florida, but did the Panthers just axe that? 

The Florida Panthers picked up the No. 16 goaltending prospect in the 2012 draft class, according to the NHL Central Scouting, Michael Houser.

"His play over the last three seasons can't be ignored," NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He has the potential to have a very good pro career."

Houser, of the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights, signed an entry-level deal with the Panthers on Monday. The 20-year-old goaltender is 6'1 and has turned some heads in the Canadian leagues.

The Wexford, Pa native won the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL's most outstanding player in 2011-12 by recording a 2.47 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.

Houser played in 62 of London's 68 games last season and recorded six shutouts en route to tying the OHL's record for wins in a season (46).

Those are pretty good numbers for a guy who has gone undrafted the last three seasons.  

This further boosts the Panthers goaltending depth, which includes veteran Jose Theodore and prospects Jacob Markstrom and Andrey Makarov.

But what about Luongo?

This signing could mean a few things for the Panthers. They could still bring in Luongo and use Houser as his backup, sending Theodore out.

The Panthers could also acquire Luongo and use Theodore as one of the most potent tandems in hockey while letting their potential goalies of the future in Houser and Markstrom develop in the minors.

Or the Panthers are dropping out of the Luongo debate and will use Theodore as the starter with Houser and Markstrom as his backups.

Regardless of who the Panthers put in net, you have to cheer for Houser. A successful NHL career would be quite the underdog story.