SUNRISE — Before one-timing a slick delivery from Dmitry Kulikov with just over 5 minutes remaining in a tie game Thursday night, it had been almost three months since Ryan Lomberg scored a goal for the Florida Panthers.
In years past, whether it was with the Panthers or Calgary Flames, such a drought may have meant a decrease in playing time — or, perhaps, a trip down to the minors.
Yet because of what Lomberg means to the Panthers both on the ice and in their room, he really had no worry about losing his spot in the lineup much less a trip to Charlotte.
“The Florida Panthers are not going to pay him to score goals,” coach Paul Maurice told FHN on Thursday night. “I do not mean that in a negative way. It is just, he does so many other things for us, and he has been doing them very well for a couple of months now. We certainly appreciate the way he plays.’’
Lomberg, a sparkplug player if there ever was one, has not changed his game nor stopped doing the things which make him effective for the Panthers despite the lack of scoring.
Would Lomberg like to score goals?
Last season, Lomberg set a career-high by scoring 12 of them. That eclipsed his previous high from the season before when he put in nine.
Lomberg’s game-winning goal against the Capitals was No. 3.
He almost got his fourth Saturday against Colorado but he smacked the cage with his shot late in the first period.
“Of course, you can get frustrated but I know that is not going to help anything,” Lomberg told FHN. “If you keep playing the right way, you’re not cheating the game or the system or the team, it is all going to come together. I am not going to cheat for offense. I have to play the right way, play responsible and worry about us getting the two points.
“But when you get a chance like (Thursday), when a teammate makes a beautiful play, I have to bear down and cash in.”
Although Lomberg has become an institution in the Florida lineup ever since he blew up Kole Sherwood in 2021, he does has a future to think about.
Lomberg initially signed a two-year contract with the Panthers in 2020 after bouncing around the Calgary organization before getting an additional two years tacked on in 2021.
That contract is coming to an end.
While all of the attention around the hockey world is on Florida’s other pending free agents — Sam Reinhart, Gus Forsling, Brandon Montour and Oliver Ekman-Larsson headline the list — Lomberg also needs a contract.
Reinhart is famously having a contract year for the ages.
With just three goals, Lomberg is not if that is your metric.
“I think he has been rejuvenated,” Maurice said. “When you had as many goals as he did last year, you come into this year — a contract year, for him — and hope to do it again. But, when we turned things around, he was a big part of that. The fight (Dec. 23 against Vegas) got things going. It mattered.
“Whether a goal goes in or not, the character guys need to feel that they are contributing something. He is killing some penalties for us now. Since the (Vegas game), he has been back on the puck, he’s fast and you really notice him.”
Of course, Lomberg’s important to Florida, or another team, is not scoring goals.
But when it comes to negotiating a new deal, it certainly does not hurt to score as many as you can.
While the Panthers love Lomberg and want to keep him around, there is a salary cap they have to worry about.
Lomberg has made around $800,000 in each of his four seasons with the Panthers. Now an NHL regular, he may command more on the open market that Florida would be willing the spend.
Time will tell.
“I play a role on this team and the fourth line is very important to what we do,” Lomberg said. “We have an identity, we’re always bringing it regardless of the opportunity we get. I have learned over the year how to handle things. But this team is so good, and we are so close, no one in here is going to be selfish and make things about themselves. If we accomplish what we ultimately want to do, everything will work out.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
- When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: PPG Arena, Pittsburgh
- TV/Streaming: TNT/HBO Max
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
- Season Series (Panthers Lead 2-0) — At Florida: Panthers 3, Penguins 1 (Dec. 8). At Pittsburgh: Panthers 3, Penguins 2 (SO) Jan. 26; Wednesday.
- Last Season: Penguins won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Penguins lead 56-37-7, 4 ties
- All-time Playoff Series: Florida d. Pittsburgh 4-3, 1996 Eastern Conference finals
- Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Buffalo, 7 p.m.