NHL Rumors: Roberto Luongo Considering Florida

By Emma Harger

The saga of the possible Roberto Luongo trade just keeps developing new twists and turns, like a mystery novel, and now the newest suggestion is that Luongo has only one team in mind and a laserlike focus in trying to get there.

Specifically, he wants to go to the Florida Panthers.

Reportedly, he is so focused on getting to Sunrise that he will not waive his no-trade clause to go to two other commonly-mentioned destinations, the Toronto Maple Leafs or Chicago Blackhawks. The Maple Leafs, and their general manager Brian Burke, have been pursuing him, though it could be all for nothing if this yearning for Florida remains so strong.

For Luongo, getting into a Panthers sweater would be a return to the team he was with from 2000 to 2006. He was traded away from Florida before the 2006-07 season and went to Vancouver at that time. But before he was traded clear across the continent, he had some big seasons for the Panthers, including a 75-game season for 2005-06. He and his family had just bought a new house in Florida when he was traded and his wife is from the area, which could be a factor that he considers in whatever decision he may make.

Of course, when his initial deal with the Canucks needed to be extended, it was then that he got one of the longest contracts I’ve ever heard of: 12 years, $64 million total, $5.33 million cap hit. It does include a no-trade clause, but also two built-in loopholes: Luongo can try to facilitate a trade after the fifth year and the Canucks can try to do so after the seventh. The only problem is that this is just the third year of his gigantic contract.

Florida GM Dale Tallon isn’t willing to give up a huge deal to try to get Luongo, and he’s especially holding on to his top prospects, which is a good idea considering the season the Panthers had–winning the Southeast Division and just narrowly missing the second round of the playoffs.

This season, the Panthers’ goalie tandem of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen was solid. Theodore played more games, putting up a 22-16-11 record, three shutouts, a 2.46 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. Clemmensen had a 14-6-6 record, one shutout, a 2.57 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. Note that Theodore is 35 and Clemmensen is 34, so both goalies are general age peers to the 33-year-old Luongo.

Interestingly, Canucks GM Mike Gillis has blamed himself for obstructing any possible deals involving Luongo, identifying himself as the problem. Maybe he will start to become the solution as Luongo continues to potentially angle for a trade out of British Columbia.

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