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Roberto Luongo finally traded by Canucks to Florida Panthers, ending 3-year soap opera

The Roberto Luongo soap opera has finally been cancelled in Vancouver.

The Vancouver Canucks traded their former captain and the remaining eight years of his $64 million contract to the Florida Panthers along with Steven Anthony (a CHL winger) for goalie Jakob Markstrom and center Shawn Matthias, who is signed through 2015. The Canucks eat a chuck of Luongo’s salary.

Luongo waived his no-trade clause to accept a deal to Florida, where he played from 2000-2006 before being traded to the Canucks in a six-player deal in June 2006.

Yes, Roberto Luongo accepted a trade to a place where he’ll share a crease with Tim Thomas for the rest of the season, barring a trade of Thomas by the Panthers. Which is a photo that might break Twitter when @Strombone1 releases it.

The trade comes days after Luongo was passed over by John Tortorella as the starter in the Heritage Classic game in Vancouver, which was started by rookie Eddie Lack. The fans chanted for Luongo and booed Lack as the Canucks lost to the Ottawa Senators.

The trade ends a saga for Luongo and the Canucks that stretches all the way back to April 2011, when coach Alain Vigneault opted to play Cory Schneider in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. That sparked a goalie controversy that would rage until Schneider was dealt at the 2013 NHL Draft to the New Jersey Devils.

But the real driving force behind the drama: Luongo’s contract.

His 12-year deal began in 2010-11. His $5,333,333 million cap hit wasn’t an issue until the lockout rewrote the rules on “cap circumventing” deals, penalizing teams that gave them out or that traded for players that had one. Luongo’s base salary drops from $3.382 million to $1.618 million from 2018-2020.

Why the heck would the Panthers do this? It sounds like an ownership driven move, given how Dale Tallon has hedged about long-term contracts in the past. But Markstrom never blossomed and I suppose the hope is that the kids ripen and Luongo is still a top 10 goalie for at least the next four years. Or that Luongo is good enough to keep the Panthers closer to contention than they are.

For Luongo, it’s the destination he’s always craved: He has a home in Florida, the state’s tax laws are beneficial to his contract. And let’s face it: Sunrise ain’t Vancouver when it comes to media scrutiny.

For Mike Gillis, it’s a return of some sort for a player whose market was one team that didn’t really need him. It was this or a buy out. But the totality of this transaction reads like this:

Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider and Alain Vigneault Canucks for Jacob Markstrom, Shawn Matthias, Bo Horvat, John Tortorella and a heaping portion of Luongo’s contract.

Which might as well be the epitaph on his managerial gravestone...

For Tortorella … well, it’s clear his snub influenced the move in some way. For a coach that could have come into this situation and been the ultimate “good cop” having no history with Luongo, he decided to get cute and disrespect the guy when even the Devils gave Brodeur a cursory start in their outdoor game.

Whether you celebrate that having greased the gears to get Luongo out of town or bemoan the fact that it did probably aligns with how you feel about Luongo and where you think the Canucks are going.

One year ago, Roberto Luongo said his contract sucked.

On Tuesday, his reaction was a tad sunnier:

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