Welcome back: Panthers acquire G Roberto Luongo from Canucks

Goalie Roberto Luongo was traded from the Panthers to the Canucks in June 2006 as part of a five-player deal.

Anne-Marie Sorvin/Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

Only yesterday, Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon joked about booking concerts at the BB&T Center due to his newly expanded role.

"Why not? A little bit of country, a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll," Tallon said.

Forget country and rock and roll.

Tallon just booked one hell of an encore for the rink.

The Panthers re-acquired goaltender Roberto Luongo and minor-league forward Steven Anthony from the Vancouver Canucks for winger Shawn Matthias and goalie Jacob Markstrom.

"I felt we had to do it," Tallon said. "It came out of nowhere yesterday about 3, 3:30 [p.m.] and here we are talking about a deal."

The trade ends at least two years of speculation regarding Luongo’s return to South Florida, where he makes his home during the offseason and where his wife is from.

"He’s excited," Tallon said. "He’s just over the moon about coming back to Florida."

The Canucks posted a statement from Luongo on its Twitter feed in which he said, "I’m excited. I’m going home." But the tweet was later deleted.

Panthers owner Vincent Viola gave Tallon the go-ahead in January to turn the franchise into a cap team.

Best in the net

By acquiring Luongo, Florida will pick up the remaining eight years of Luongo’s 12-year deal. The sum comes out to about $28.8 million after this season, and that accounts for the 15 percent in salary Vancouver will retain.

And even with the Panthers adding Luongo’s $5.3 million-a-year cap hit, Florida still has the most room under the ceiling of any NHL team..

"It sets the tone for our franchise," Tallon said. "Vinny, [co-owner Doug Cifu], [CEO Rory Babich] and I want to win a Stanley Cup. Talk is cheap. So we’re acting and we’re following up on what we said we would do."

Since Vancouver’s Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins — and current Panthers goalie Tim Thomas — in 2011, Luongo’s situation grew increasingly uncomfortable with the Canucks and fans.

Luongo was rumored to have requested a move back to Florida leading up to and after the 2012 lockout. Tallon indicated as much, saying the teams have discussed this deal for a while.

"We just couldn’t get a deal done. We tried," Tallon said. "Both teams didn’t feel it was a fair deal, so we couldn’t get a deal done."

That season, Luongo went on to split time in net with highly touted goaltender Cory Schneider, before being the subject of more rumors involving an amnesty buyout. Instead, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis chose to stick with Luongo and trade Schneider to the New Jersey Devils at the 2013 NHL Draft.

But the tipping point may have been this past weekend’s Heritage Classic at BC Place in Vancouver, in which Luongo was benched for rookie Eddie Lack.

Florida Panthers deals

When asked if the goaltending controversy expedited Luongo’s departure, Gillis said "it didn’t." But Gillis did indicate that Florida’s change in ownership was the catalyst for getting a deal done Tuesday.

"Sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re the windshield. This time we were able to get a deal done," Tallon said. "Sometimes it takes years to get the proper deal done and Vancouver and ourselves have been going after this pretty hard for a couple years and we were finally able to get it done."

Florida originally acquired Luongo as a 21-year-old prospect along with center Olli Jokinen from the New York Islanders in 2000 for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha in what many consider one of the best trades in franchise history.

Luongo re-wrote Florida’s record book during his first stint with the Panthers. He set new marks for career games played (317), wins (108) and shutouts (26), as well as single-season records for games played (75), saves (2,303), minutes played (4,304) and consecutive scoreless minutes (182:37).

The Montreal native posted one of his best seasons as a Panther in 2003-04, going 25-33-14, with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. He represented the Panthers at the All-Star Game that year and was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie.

Cheerleader gallery

When the Panthers sought to re-sign the then-restricted free agent in the summer of 2006, conflict between Luongo and then-GM Mike Keenan emerged. Luongo turned down a five-year, $30 million deal. Then-owner Alan Cohen stated he’d comply with whatever the netminder wanted.

But Luongo presented Florida with demands that could not be met — that backup Jamie McLennan be re-signed, the Panthers hire goaltending coach Francois Allaire and that Keenan release a public statement saying he would not trade Luongo before a no-movement clause took effect.

On June 23, 2006, Keenan sent Luongo, Lukas Krajicek and a draft pick to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld in return.

The deal ended up being disastrous for the Panthers. Bertuzzi appeared in just seven games with Florida during the 2006-07 season due to chronic back problems. He was sent to Detroit in exchange for Matthias. Auld was let go the following offseason. Only Allen, who appeared in 284 games with the Panthers, was around when Luongo made his first appearance back in South Florida.

But all that is history now.

"He’s very excited to be a Panther again, and so are we," Tallon said. "That’s where his attitude is. The past is the past and we’ve got to move ahead and worry about tomorrow."

And for Luongo and the Panthers, the focus now bringing a Stanley Cup home — to South Florida — in the near future.