Goaltenders are very popular at the trade deadline this year in the NHL. Several keepers are on their way to new cities today, and that includes one of the league’s best; Roberto Luongo. Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers, and will be heading home to the team where it all started for him.
Luongo’s resume is already impressive. He has played in the post season six times, including one trip to the finals. He has two Olympic Gold Medals and was a three time all-star selection. At 34, he still has a lot of good years ahead of him, and the Panthers know it. Vancouver has even agreed to pick up some of the remaining money owed to Luongo, making this practically a steal for Florida and their fans. The Canucks will be getting forward, Shawn Matthias and goalie, Jacob Markstrom, in the deal. Florida will also receive Forward Steven Anthony along with Luongo.
Luongo was the fourth overall selection in the 1997 draft by the New York Islanders. He played for their AHL affiliate for most of his time there, seeing ice time with the big club in less than a handful of games in 1999. He was considered to be the future for New York until they drafted Rick Dipietro first overall in the 2000 NHL Draft. This made Luongo expendable, despite his strong potential. He was dealt to the Florida Panthers in 2000, spending the next six years there carving a name for himself as an elite goaltender.
As a Panther, Luongo spent time honing his skills behind veteran goaltender Trevor Kidd. Despite his backup status, he appeared in 42 games during the 2000-2001 season, one more than Kidd. He posted a franchise record five shutouts on his way to a 2.33 GAA and a .920 save percentage. These numbers were good enough to earn a four-year contract extension with the Panthers. The 2001 – 2002 season was a wash for Luongo due to a ligament injury, but he came back with a fever in the 02–03 campaign, notching his first twenty-win season as a professional. The next year saw Luongo go to the all-star game and finish second behind Martin Brodeur for the Vezina Trophy, making him the second best goaltender on the ice.
Unfortunately for Luongo, Florida was not meant to be his permanent home. Despite breaking the franchise record for wins in a season and wins overall, the Panthers could not agree on a contract for the young goalie and shipped him off to Vancouver before the 2006 season began. The Canucks responded immediately by locking up Luongo with a nice four-year contract. During his first four years in Vancouver, Luongo started his first all-star game and won his first playoff series. More importantly, he elevated the Canucks to a place of power in the western conference. The 105 points they racked up in the 2006-2007 season was a franchise record. Luongo added 47 wins and a personal best 2.29 GAA, and he would go on later to break that.
After the 2009 season, the Canucks wanted to lock up Luongo to a long-term deal that would solidify his place between the pipes for years to come. They signed the superstar to a 12 year contract worth 64 million dollars. The contract was front-loaded heavily, and Luongo made a majority of the salary his first few years, making the deal good for both sides. However, it did not take long for trouble to surface in Vancouver. Despite leading his team all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011, Luongo was benched in favor of Cory Schneider during the first round of the 2012 playoffs. The Canucks would lose the series to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings.
Many believed that Schneider’s three year contract extension with Vancouver signaled the end for Luongo. However, at the end of last season the Canucks traded him to the Devils, eliminating the controversy and placing Luongo firmly back at the top spot of the depth chart. Yet this year has been no different in terms of turmoil, and Luongo was again replaced as the starter when Eddie Lack was put in front of him several times in the last few weeks. Luongo kept his attitude positive through it all, and now has a chance to start fresh in the place where it all began, in a place he has always called home; Florida.
Commentary by Chris Chisam