Mar 4, 2014, 7:09 PM EDT
To hear Roberto Luongo explain it, Tuesday’s blockbuster move to Florida never seemed possible.
“I thought my contract was untradable,” Luongo said, per the Miami Herald. “It hurt I didn’t play [Sunday vs. Ottawa in Heritage Classic] but I was ready to play tonight. I moved on, was ready to go.
“I wasn’t expecting this to happen, especially not today.”
The 34-year-old ‘tender was shipped to Florida in exchange for Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias, with Vancouver retaining 15 percent of Luongo’s salary (a figure confirmed by Panthers GM Dale Tallon via conference call.) It was a big, bold trade that signified a changing of the guard for both organizations.
In discussing the move, Tallon praised Luongo as an “elite” goalie while acknowledging the Panthers needed to “make a statement.” On that, it’s worth noting Tallon repeatedly mentioned that Luongo still holds clout in Florida, a popular figure from his time with the organization from 2002-06.
“He’s excited, just over the moon about coming back,” Tallon said. “He’s already been in the community and is a very popular figure in the community.”
From the Florida perspective, the big narrative is how the organization took on one of the NHL’s largest deals — in what now feels like a move designed to “make a statement” in addition to improving the on-ice product. Tallon talked about how the Luongo acquisition “sets the tone” for what the club wants to do moving forward, echoing statements made yesterday by new team president Rory Babich, who spoke optimistically about the future of the franchise.
“We’re incredibly optimistic,” Babich said, per the Miami Herald. “[Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu] bought the team with the belief it can be very successful in South Florida. Dale and I certainly share that vision. That’s why we’re both here today.”
Luongo acknowledged what his move to Florida signified as well.
“It’s nice, it’s home,” he said. “It’s going to be a little tough to get in this season but we’ll have to deal with that. The new ownership there is committed to winning and there are some good young players there.
“This is a good opportunity for me.”
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