(photo: Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)
For the past several years, Roberto Luongo‘s relationship with the Vancouver Canucks has been strained. Between a few years competing with Cory Schneider for the #1 spot in net, and more recently, getting benched in favor of Eddie Lack for several games (including the Heritage Classic); it should come as no surprise that the goaltender has been sent back to the place he once called home: South Florida. The only question is why this trade didn’t happen a year ago, when Vancouver instead sent Schneider packing.
Luongo’s simple tweet – a palm tree emoji – sums up how he feels about the move, one that he expressed interest in as far back as late 2012. The move fits for Luongo. His children were born here, he became an All-Star goalie here, and his family has had an offseason home here during his days with Vancouver. During a practice session at the Florida Panthers’ practice facility in September, 2012, Luongo spoke with the Sun Sentinel about his future and his hopes of returning to the Panthers.
“[The Panthers] makes sense for myself, for my career and my family,” said Luongo, “This is a preferred location for obvious reasons, but I’m not shutting the door on other possibilities.”
The move apparently made sense for Panthers GM Dale Tallon as well, even if it happened a year later than everyone expected. Since the initial rumors that Luongo would don the Cats sweater again, Tallon maintained that it would happen “for the right price,” a price that didn’t include future talents like Quinton Howden or Jonathan Huberdeau. The Panthers did end up sending some future talent Vancouver’s way, however. Jacob Markstrom, previously considered by many to be the goaltender of the future for Florida, and Shawn Matthias were part of the Luongo deal which also includes CHL left winger Steven Anthony coming to the Panthers. Also reportedly part of the deal, Vancouver has agreed to retain 15% of Luongo’s current salary on their own cap, about $800,000 a season for the next eight years.
The move means that the foes of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final will now be teammates as Luongo joins Tim Thomas in Florida. The tandem could be spectacular, but also seems to have to potential to bring back Luongo’s starter woes, as he could be right back where he was fighting for the #1 spot in goal. Nevertheless, Luongo expressed surprise and excitement when he learned about the move, for which he had to waive his no-trade clause.
“This caught me off guard,” Luongo said after learning he had finally been traded. “But I’m excited. I’m going home.”