Has a 'potential' trade ever dragged on this long? Whenever the era-respective general managers of the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have locked eyes, the transactions have flowed like wine. But not this time, patience is the game while meaningful discourse between parties has ground on for at least a week while insider rumors have swirled since the Stanley Cup was awarded. I was skeptical at first, but no smoke without fire -- it's probably going to happen eventually.
The question of wanting top goaltender Roberto Luongo back is creating somewhat of a rift amongst the fanbase. Those who've followed Luongo since the initial trade to Vancouver know he's made quite the name for himself, both in a good way and a bad. Those who watched the 2011 Stanley Cup Final know Bobby Lou can be a fragile, fragile little man. Luongo has a complex image of regular season world beater, playoff question mark, speak-his-mind kind of guy; he is undoubtedly an elite goalie but his other qualities and specifically -his contract- muddy the waters on whether he'd fit back in Florida. The Panthers have a set future in net, Luongo has one team in mind, Canucks GM Mike Gillis somehow thinks he holds the cards; oh what a fun summer awaiting us!
Imagine being the fat kid everyone picks on at school. It sucks, huh? Well imagine moving to the school across town where nobody knows you. Sure when you cross the tracks now and again you'll get heckled, but for the most part you're a new man. Except you're not the fat kid, Luongo is the fat kid. Roberto hasn't faced a full 64 game Eastern Conference schedule since 05-06, the faces have changed and the East boys have probably forgotten all of the old tricks for their buddy Bobby. It's a bit cliched, but it still holds time and time again. Give Luongo a new environment and let him thrive, so far he's done quite well in his career after moving to a new city.
The other (obvious) point is that Luongo would be happy in Florida; there's no logical explanation for him to want to take a step down to a lesser team if that wasn't the case. Luongo's family lives in Florida, Luongo lives in Florida in the offseason...he simply want's to be here. Jokes arose about him waiving his no trade clause for Chicago, along with -- well desperate hopes he had interest in Toronto, but in the end Luongo has one city in mind. It's Sunrise or bust. Maybe there's a nostalgia aspect of returning to Florida amongst his personal reasons, and in the end he left gracefully and the Panthers seem to have no qualms about taking him back. Maybe it's something along the lines of why Brian Campbell left a perfectly good team in Chicago to join a bottom feeder; perhaps Luongo is banking on being the goaltender of a rising, well structured team not long off from fighting for a Cup. The media buzzards aren't quite as thick, and hey; the grass is greener.
There's always a gamble involved when Dale Tallon sets out to make a trade. At least in this instance, there's a pretty low chance the player traded for falls on his face. People want to write off Luongo for being a one hit wonder who had lots of scoring support and good defense in Vancouver, but that notion is preposterous. Current starter Jose Theodore had a perfectly respectable year, but who knows if he can do it again. Jacob Markstrom is the Panthers' only top prospect with question marks next to his name. We've heard the calls for increased goaltending depth, and I'll put it to you that starting from the top is a better bet than from the very bottom. There should be no doubt, with the added benefits he has moving to Florida, Roberto Luongo would be an upgrade. A big one. .
The horrendous contract? We saw how that issue fell to pieces when super expensive Brian Campbell proved his doubters wrong with a 53 point campaign good for second in the league amongst defensemen. Quality players demand quality money, and for a team currently 30 million dollars below the cap ceiling (and well below the floor) adding Luongo's cap hit wouldn't be as crippling as it's been portrayed. Sure it's long term, but if Luongo were to retire the remainder of the contract would drop off the books. If anything, trading for Luongo would prove to players and the city that the Panthers are serious, just like last season.
Trade return? The fact no trade has been made since rumors started to fly proves that Tallon is willing to be patient. This isn't kid-in-the-candyshop stuff anymore, being too eager could easily ruin the hard work Tallon has done. The cards are with Florida, and despite reported demands for Nick Bjugstad both parties will likely slug it out until a fair deal is met. Anyways, trades with Vancouver always seem to work out in the end. It's redemption time.
Sticker shock rightfully surrounds Roberto Luongo, but if the best laid plans of the Panthers management hold then the reasons for acquiring the goaltender are very tantalizing. All roads seem to lead to this trade happening before training camp, and while it may be a slap in the face for Theodore and Markstrom, the life of a professional athlete isn't always fair. If Tallon can find a way to disable the historical Panthers-Canucks trade discrepancy bomb, immediate and long term results should add a new threat for teams facing the redefined Florida Panthers.