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Report: Roberto Luongo looking for a return to Florida

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

Luongo

Despite months of trade rumors, Roberto Luongo is still a member of the Vancouver Canucks as of Monday morning.

The NHL draft weekend came and went without a deal, and the list of possible suitors for his services seems to be dwindling. Not only because other teams seem to have found their goalies in other places, but also because Luongo might be looking for a specific team for himself.

According to a report from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch on Monday, the veteran goalie is using the power of his no-trade clause in an effort to get moved to the Florida Panthers, the team he spent five seasons with between 2000 and 2006.

From Portzline, via Twitter:

Luongo still has 10 years remaining on a contract that pays him an average annual salary of $5.3 million. The cap hit isn't terrible for a player that's been one of the top goalies in the NHL, but the length of the deal (a decade) is a bit much, as is the current asking price from Canucks general manager Mike Gillis.

The emergence of former first-round pick Cory Schneider, who appears ready to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, has helped put the Canucks and Luongo in this situation. But while Luongo may (reportedly) have his sights set on Florida, are the Panthers willing to give up the required assets via trade, and be willing to take on the remaining years of Luongo's contract?

And more importantly, should they?

The Panthers went through this past season with Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen in net and finished with a .914 save percentage, which was ninth best in the NHL. Clemmensen is an unrestricted free agent this summer (and probably the best player at the position at this point on the free-agent market).

The other thing to consider is that the Panthers have one of the best goalie prospects in the NHL in Swedish goaltender Jakob Markstrom. He appeared in seven games for the Panthers this past season and more than held his own, while he finished his season in the American Hockey League with a .927 save percentage for the San Antonio Rampage. That mark was good enough for third best in the entire league. In theory he should be close to being ready to play in the NHL, if not this upcoming season, then soon after. When that happens (assuming he continues to develop as planned) you could have a team in the exact same situation that Vancouver is in right now: Luongo, still under contract for years (and years and years and years) and a young, up-and-coming goalie sitting behind him ready for his opportunity to start.

The Panthers originally acquired Luongo, along with forward Olli Jokinen, from the New York Islanders prior to the 2000 season in what has to be considered one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history, sending only Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha back the other way.

After five seasons the Panthers then sent him to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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