Luongo sent back to Florida on busy eve of NHL trade deadline
NEW YORK — NHL trade deadline day was widely expected to be busy. The day before might prove to be even wilder.
Several big-name hockey players were on the move Tuesday, 24 hours before time for dealing runs out, including star goalie Roberto Luongo, who was ushered out of Vancouver and sent back to Florida eight years after he was sent packing.
The Panthers, on their way to missing the playoffs for the 13th time in 14 seasons, dealt goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias to the Canucks for Luongo and forward Steven Anthony.
“We’re getting a great goaltender, a proven commodity,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. “Jacob has got great upside but we needed to make a statement, and 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. You have to pay the price to get guys like this.”
Luongo is first in Panthers history in games played (317), single-season games played (75), career wins (108), single-season wins (35), and career shutouts (26). He also own single-season records for most saves, most minutes played, and consecutive scoreless minutes.
Markstrom had been considered the Panthers’ goalie of the future for several years.
“Jacob’s a great young goaltender, with a lot of potential, but that’s what you have to pay sometimes,” Tallon said.
Luongo was the highest-profile netminder on the move Tuesday, but he was hardly alone as several goalies changed addresses in a flurry of trades. In fact, his acquisition in Florida could prompt the Panthers to trade veteran Tim Thomas before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. EST deadline.
On Tuesday, the Anaheim Ducks sent goalie Viktor Fasth to the Edmonton Oilers for a 2014 fifth-round draft pick and a 2015 third-round selection. Edmonton then traded veteran goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to the Minnesota Wild for a fourth-round draft pick this year.
The Wild were in the market for another netminder, with high-profile names such as Martin Brodeur and Jaroslav Halak mentioned as possible acquisitions.
General manager Chuck Fletcher said the team must assume that neither Niklas Backstrom nor Josh Harding will be healthy enough to mind the net again this season. Rookie goalie Darcy Kuemper has played well, but the Wild needed depth heading into a stretch of 20 games in 37 days.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us to get where we want to get to, but clearly having two quality goaltenders was very important,” Fletcher said.
Halak was traded from St. Louis to Buffalo last week in the deal that brought goalie Ryan Miller to the Blues, and could still be flipped somewhere else before Wednesday’s deadline.
Brodeur made what could be his final start with New Jersey at home Tuesday night against Detroit. The future Hall of Famer has a full no-trade clause that he can invoke.
The trade of Luongo came as a bit of a surprise after he was the goalie the Canucks decided to keep when they dealt Cory Schneider to New Jersey after last season. Now they are both gone.
Luongo seemed destined in his mind to stay with Vancouver because of his 12-year, $64 million contract. However, the situation soured even more Sunday when Luongo didn’t play in the Heritage Classic. Canucks coach John Tortorella decided to go with Eddie Lack instead.
Now, with eight years left on his contract, the 34-year-old Luongo is headed back to Florida, where he has his off-season home.
The Panthers were already active Tuesday before acquiring Luongo, sending defenceman Mike Weaver to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2015 fifth-round draft pick.
The Western Conference-leading Ducks traded forward Dustin Penner to the Washington Capitals for a fourth-round draft pick this year and then quickly moved that pick to the Dallas Stars for veteran defenceman Stephane Robidas.
“We’re going for a Stanley Cup, and that’s what I’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Robidas said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me, and I’m just very excited for the chance the Ducks are giving me.”
Robidas hasn’t played since breaking his leg against Chicago on Nov. 29, but he has been participating extensively in practice.
“Everything has been going really well,” Robidas said of his recovery. “I’ve just got a few little things I need to get a little more comfortable.”
The New York Islanders, well on their way toward missing the playoffs, started their sell-off by dealing coveted defenceman Andrew MacDonald to the Metropolitan Division-rival Philadelphia Flyers for a pair of draft picks and minor league centre Matt Mangene.
“Andrew MacDonald is a solid two-way defenceman who brings us depth and experience,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said.
New York also is expected to deal veteran forward Thomas Vanek, who was acquired earlier this season from Buffalo. Vanek was scratched from the Islanders’ lineup at Winnipeg at Tuesday night in anticipation of a trade before the deadline.
In other deals, the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks acquired defencemen David Rundblad and Mathieu Brisebois from the Phoenix Coyotes for a second-round draft pick this year; the Ottawa Senators traded forward Jeff Costello to Vancouver for defenceman Patrick Mullen, who was then assigned to Binghamton of the AHL; and Phoenix received forwards Martin Erat and John Mitchell from Washington for forward Chris Brown, defenceman Rostislav Klesla and a fourth-round selection in the 2015 draft.
Still in play in the final hours before trading time runs out was New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who was trying to work out a new deal with the only NHL team he has been with. Reports suggested the sides grew closer in contract talks, but the Rangers might be inclined to trade him if Callahan is headed to unrestricted free agency this summer.