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Panthers Made Statement With Luongo Deal

Tuesday, 03.4.2014 / 8:33 PM ET / Features
By Alain Poupart  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Panthers Made Statement With Luongo Deal

SUNRISE, Fla. -- For the Florida Panthers, bringing goaltender Roberto Luongo back to South Florida was about making a statement.

That was the message from general manager Dale Tallon, who said he consummated the four-player trade with the Vancouver Canucks after getting the go-ahead from owner Vinnie Viola, partner Doug Cifu, and new president/CEO Rory Babich, who took over on Monday.

"It is huge," Tallon said in a conference call Tuesday night. "He's a big name down here and it sets the tone for our franchise. Vinnie and Doug and Rory and I want to win the Stanley Cup, and talk is cheap, so we're acting and we're following up on what we said we would do. We're just looking to get better every day to achieve our goal of winning the Stanley Cup."

As other examples, Tallon pointed to the recent trade for former Chicago Blackhawks second-round pick Brandon Pirri and the re-signing of veteran forward Brad Boyes to a two-year contract. But those moves paled in comparison to the trade that brought Luongo for a second stint with the Panthers.

"He's still one of the elite goaltenders in the League," Tallon said. "He was on the Canadian Olympic team. He won a gold medal. His numbers are phenomenal. He went to a Stanley Cup Finals, took his team to the Finals, got beat in Game 7. He's played very well the last couple of years. He's just a solid goaltender."

It also doesn't hurt that Luongo, who earned his first All-Star Game invitation during his six-year stay with the Panthers from 2001-06, is popular in South Florida.

Tallon had discussions with the Canucks about a trade involving Luongo last year, but the sides couldn't come to an agreement. When the deal was finally made, one of the players Tallon sent to Vancouver was Jacob Markstrom, who had long been seen as the Panthers' goaltender of the future.

Markstrom appeared in at least one game for the Panthers in each of the past four seasons but was marred by inconsistency. He has an NHL record of 11-25-5 with a 3.20 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.

Tallon gave Markstrom a vote of confidence on his way out.

"We're getting a great goaltender, a proven commodity," Tallon said. "Jacob has got great upside, but we needed to make a statement. Luongo's numbers are terrific. He's already been in this community and is a very popular figure in the South Florida area. I just like what he brings to the table, giving us stability, and his experience and a chance for us to win.

"We're getting a great goaltender, a proven commodity. You have to pay the price to get guys like this. You don't get Roberto Luongo for nothing. You have to pay the price, and obviously we paid a big price. Jacob is a great young goaltender with a lot of potential, but that's what you have to pay sometimes to get value."

Goaltender Roberto Luongo makes a save during his time with the Panthers (Getty Images)

Also headed to Vancouver is forward Shawn Matthias, who already was in a way connected with Luongo. Matthias was acquired by the Panthers in a February 2007 trade with the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for forward Todd Bertuzzi, who was the key player the Panthers acquired eight months earlier when they had sent Luongo to Vancouver.

A fast-skating forward with size, Matthias had his moments with the Panthers but never could play himself into a prominent role. As an example of his inconsistency, Matthias had 11 goals in 16 games in March 2013, but three goals in the other 32 games last season. This season, he had six goals in the first 57 games before scoring three times in Florida's first two games this March.

"I think it's time for a change," Tallon said of Matthias, who had been Florida's longest-tenured player (since 2007-08). "He's been here for a long time. He's had some great games and not-so-great games. Inconsistency has been the issue. I think he probably is welcoming a change. He's kind of intimated that this year a few times; his agent has. He's got a lot of upside. He's a good guy, he works hard, can skate, has a big shot, but needs to develop some consistency in his game. As I said, we're giving up two good young assets to get a highly talented goaltender."

With Luongo's arrival, the Panthers suddenly found themselves with not one but two goaltenders with lofty credentials. The other is veteran Tim Thomas, who started Tuesday against the Boston Bruins.

After a one-year hiatus, Thomas joined the Panthers in September after going to training camp on a professional tryout and recently said he was receptive to the idea of returning for a second season in Florida. But with Luongo and his long-term contract, it's difficult to envision the Panthers bringing back Thomas for 2014-15.

Thomas has a no-trade clause and Tallon said he would sit down with the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Wednesday before the NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET) and do his best to accommodate the goalie's wishes.

But Tuesday, it was all about Luongo and his return.

"We're excited about it," Tallon said. "I think it's great for our franchise."

Author: Alain Poupart | NHL.com Correspondent




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

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