NHL Rumors: Roberto Luongo Trade to Florida Imminent?

By Emma Harger

The possibility of Roberto Luongo becoming part of the Florida Panthers through trade is looking closer to reality every day. Luongo himself seems to be ready to pack up and quit British Columbia for sunny South Florida, which would be a return to old familiar places for him.

The team sounds like it is preparing for his arrival. Reportedly, two Panthers sources are practically ready to roll out the red carpet for him. Internal team sources working on background saying things like that is one thing–the player himself talking about being with the Vancouver Canucks like he knows it’s not going to happen anymore is another thing altogether.

“I had a great six years in Vancouver. I think it’s a wonderful city, I really enjoyed my time there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring a Stanley Cup there, which was probably my biggest regret. But it will be remembered for six great years,” he said in an interview with Vancouver radio.

The way he’s talking about it now, he may have already started packing.

It is not yet known what the Panthers could offer in return, though. They recently re-signed goalie Scott Clemmensen and Jose Theodore is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this time next year. Jacob Markstrom is a talented goalie with AHL San Antonio. General manager Dale Tallon may balk at letting go of young prospects in return for Luongo.

There is, of course, the small–actually, the large–matter of Luongo’s contract. Florida would have to be willing to absorb the rest of his huge deal, now at 10 years and $5.3 million a season, or to barter some sort of compromise with Vancouver to lessen the blow. The contract is front-loaded, like many of the NHL’s big deals (see also Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter), so there is a salary drop-off near the end of it.

Now, the Panthers are near the bottom of Cap Geek‘s list of teams by salary, currently at $46.8 million, nowhere near the $70.2 million (plus a 10 percent offseason cushion) limit, so they are well-placed to potentially take on that hit.

Previously, Luongo played for the Panthers from 2000 to 2006.

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