|Roberto Luongo still thinks a trade back to the Florida Panthers 'makes sense.' (Getty Images)|
After months of trade rumors and speculation Roberto Luongo is still a member of the Vancouver Canucks. For now. That doesn't mean he isn't hoping for a change of scenery, and based on what he told the Sun Sentinel on Tuesday he thinks a return to the Florida Panthers "makes sense."
Luongo, who makes his home in Florida during the offseason, was skating at the Panthers' practice facility on Tuesday just before the Panthers' current goalies, Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, took the ice.
"It's been a tough summer, not knowing what's going to happen,'' Luongo told Harvey Fialkov of the Sentinel. "It's tough to not know what your future is going to be with your family and everything. There were a couple of stressful moments, but we're still here and everything's good. The Panthers makes sense for myself, for my career and my family. That being said, there's obvious other options as well. This is a preferred location for obvious reasons, but I'm not shutting the door on other possibilities if it comes up.''
The "other options" seem limited at this point based on the current goaltending situations around the league (most of which are already settled with established starters), but the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs have also been speculated/rumored destinations.
The 33-year-old Luongo still has 10 years remaining on his current contract that pays him an average annual salary of $5.3 million per season.
He's still one of the top goalies in the league (and still probably very underappreciated), but the Canucks seem prepared to move forward with former first-round pick Cory Schneider as their No. 1 goalie after signing him to a three-year, $12-million contract earlier this summer.
A move back to Florida would certainly make sense for Luongo from a personal standpoint (family, and he had some of his best seasons with the Panthers), but I still don't see what motivation the Panthers would have to pull the trigger and give up the required assets and take on more than $50 million in salary over the next 10 years.
Luongo is still an outstanding goalie, and he should be an upgrade, but the Panthers' current duo of Theodore and Clemmensen finished last season in the top 10 in the NHL in save percenatge and provides them with an affordable platoon situation. And that's not taking into account what they would have to give up in a trade and the additional salary they would have to take on.
For the long term, they have one of the top goaltending prospects in the NHL in Jakub Markstrom getting closer to being ready for a regular role in the NHL. He appeared in seven games for the Panthers during the 2011-12 season and posted a .923 save percentage. He had a .927 mark with the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League. Seems like a situation that wouldn't be all that different from what's unfolded in Vancouver over the past couple of years with big-money veteran and a young, up-and-coming goalie ready for his chance.