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As Roberto Luongo returns to Vancouver, recalling his breaking point

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On Thursday night, Roberto Luongo makes his return to Vancouver as a member of the Florida Panthers. He spoke with the local media on Tuesday, and circled back to a familiar question: What finally pushed him to waive his no-trade clause and clear the path for a deal?

According to Luongo, it was when coach John Tortorella decided to start Eddie Lack in the Heritage Classic against the Ottawa Senators on March 2, 2014.

“There’s no hiding it. I did want to play that game. I mean, that goes without saying, and if I would have played I probably would maybe still be here. Who knows?” he said.

This is something Luongo had mentioned after the trade; his agent, Pat Brisson, even said back in March 2014 that had Luongo played in the Heritage Classic “he would likely still be a Canuck.”

The deal with Florida was actually two and a half years in the making, according to GM Dale Tallon. He told George Richards of the Miami Herald, “It was close, then it wasn't, then it was revitalized. We were elated to get it done.

Richards had a nice timeline of the events leading to the Luongo trade:

Luongo was so incensed at the snub, agent Pat Brisson went to Gillis demanding a trade. Gillis allowed Brisson to shop his client and his first call was to Florida general manager Dale Tallon.

A few days after the Heritage game was played in the large dome -- which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics as well as being the home of the CFL's Lions -- Luongo was headed back to Florida.

"I had given up on it,'' Luongo said.

Tallon had conversations with Gillis about acquiring Luongo in the past, but nothing ever went through. Luongo had heard the rumors he would be heading back to Florida before, so he didn't pay much heed to the latest talk between the two teams.

Tallon, however, now had the financial backing of new ownership not to mention a much lower pricetag for Luongo's services. Vancouver had been asking for some of Florida's top prospects -- most notably Nick Bjugstad -- in previous talks. In March, all Tallon had to give up was center Shawn Matthias and goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom to bring Luongo back to South Florida.

Luongo’s going to get a great reception in his return to Vancouver – many, many more “LOUUUUUs” than “BOOOOOs.” And you know what? All’s well that ends well. The Canucks lose that contract, drop Tortorella and Mike Gillis and find themselves in a playoff spot. Luongo goes back to the only other place he really wanted to be, and has the Panthers in the playoff hunt.

It was a downright ugly situation at times, but everyone’s moved on for the better.