The other skate has finally dropped, and Bobby Lou is going home.
According to a report from TSN, the NHL's Vancouver Canucks today traded Roberto Luongo, their long-time (and sometime) number-one goaltender, back to the Florida Panthers, the team for which he played five seasons near the start of his career.
Terms of the trade have not yet been released. [Update 3 p.m., March 4: Vancouver forward Steven Anthony went to Florida with Luongo; goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias came west to the Canucks. Florida general manager Dale Tallon said during a conference call Tuesday afternoon that Vancouver is picking up 15 percent of Luongo's salary for the duration of his contract.]
Luongo had long been the subject of trade rumours within the Canucks fan base and local sports media, but those had cooled since last year, after the team was unable to find any takers for the veteran netminder’s unwieldy and expensive contract.
On September 2, 2009, the Canucks announced that they had signed Luongo to a front-loaded $64-million, 12-year contract extension.
Luongo will join Tim Thomas, the former Boston Bruins goaltender he faced in the Stanley Cup showdown in 2011.
This season, Luongo went 19-16-6 with three shutouts and a 2.38 goals-against average.
The Montreal native told reporters at the end of the 2011-12 season that he would waive his no-trade clause if the team asked him to do so. Luongo’s family—his wife, Gina, and two young children—lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they settled when he originally played for the Panthers.
Luongo also told reporters in 2012 that the Panthers would be the “logical” fit for him. At the time, the delay in moving the highly regarded netminder had been variously ascribed to uncertainty about salary caps as the NHL and the NHLPA battled for a new collective-bargaining agreement, the high price tag Luongo sports, and a rumoured reluctance for certain teams (including the Toronto Maple Leafs) to trade valued young players in any deal.
The New York Islanders made Luongo a first-round pick, fourth overall, in the 1997 entry draft, at the time the highest-drafted ’keeper in NHL history.
Since being acquired from the Florida Panthers (who nabbed the netminder from New York after just one season when then–Islander GM Mike Milbury dangled him as trade bait the same day he picked goalie Rick DiPietro in the 2000 entry draft) for the start of the 2006 season (in exchange for forward Todd Bertuzzi and two others), Luongo has suited up for 448 regular-season games and 64 playoff contests for the Canucks.
Luongo started a career-high 76 games for the Canucks in his first year in Vancouver, winning 47 of those and finishing the 2006-07 season with a goals-against average of 2.29 (his best in the NHL until his sterling 2.11 effort in the 2010-11 campaign, wherein he started 60 games while backup goalie Corey Schneider—since traded, in June 2013, to the New Jersey Devils—rose in his abilities and his coaches’ confidence).
Luongo set seven team goaltending records while playing with the Panthers, and he went on to set eight with the Canucks, including most saves in a single game (72), most shutouts in a season (nine), most wins in a season (47), most team shutouts all-time (38), and most wins all-time (252).
At the start of the 2008-09 season, Canucks GM Mike Gillis and head coach Alain Vigneault appointed Luongo team captain, only the seventh goaltender to be awarded that distinction in NHL history, and the first since 1947. The move was controversial, and Luongo relinquished the captain’s C to Henrik Sedin at the start of the 2010-11 season.
He also won gold for Canada in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, was a gold medallist twice in the IIHF world championships, and won the world juniors’ best-goalie award in 1999. He received the William M. Jennings Trophy in 2011 and has been nominated for the Vezina Trophy three times.