Roberto Luongo thought he was untradeable. The Panthers found a way to bring him back to Florida.
After nearly eight years apart, Luongo was the centerpiece of a four-player trade between Florida and the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. The Panthers sent goalie Jacob Markstrom — once considered their future in net — and forward Shawn Mattias to the Canucks for Luongo and forward Steven Anthony.
It’s a bold move for the Panthers, who almost certainly will wind up missing the playoffs for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons.
Florida already has undergone a coaching change this season from Kevin Dineen to Peter Horachek, and the big trade comes one day after longtime team president and CEO Michael Yormark announced he was leaving the organization to work for rap mogul Jay Z and his Roc Nation agency.
Nonetheless, the Panthers found a way to make a huge deal, and bring back a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
“Roberto is one of the game’s elite goaltenders and we are happy to welcome him back to South Florida,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. “With this acquisition, we have solidified our goaltending depth with a top-tiered netminder for the next several seasons.”
Luongo told Canada’s TSN Radio that he thought his contract would make him untradeable. He signed a 12-year extension in 2009, the deal paying him about $64 million through 2022.
Luongo spent parts of eight seasons with Vancouver, which acquired him from Florida in 2006. His time with the Canucks was often rocky, and now he heads to Florida — where Tim Thomas, the goalie who beat Luongo when Boston topped Vancouver in the Stanley Cup finals in 2011, is also on the roster, a quirk that will surely make for interesting conversation.
Luongo told reporters he was caught off guard by the trade’s timing, and that he felt the years and money left on his deal would make such a move difficult to pull off. He was expected to start for Vancouver in Phoenix on Tuesday night. A few hours before that game would have started, he posted a palm tree icon on his Twitter feed.
The message was simple: He’s going home, or at least to the place he’s long considered home.
The Panthers also traded defenseman Mike Weaver to Montreal for a fifth-round draft choice in 2015.