VANCOUVER — While most NHL players are approaching lockout limbo, Vancouver Canuck netminder Roberto Luongo is in double limbo: he doesn't know if he'll play and he doesn't know where he'll play either.
Luongo, who lives in South Florida during the summer, wants to be moved out of Vancouver and he told a Florida newspaper Tuesday that the Panthers are his first choice. While this was not a startling revelation — he acknowledged the Panthers were a preferred destination in a radio interview July 6 — the story received new life with his remarks to South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter Harvey Fialkov.
"It's been a tough summer, not knowing what's going to happen,'' Luongo told Fialkov after a workout at the Panthers' practice facility. "It's tough to not know what your future is going to be with your family and everything. There were a couple of stressful moments, but we're still here and everything's good.
“[The Panthers] make sense for myself, for my career and my family. That being said, there's obviously other options as well. This is a preferred location for obvious reasons, but I'm not shutting the door on other possibilities if it comes up.''
Luongo, 33, spent five seasons with the Panthers prior to joining the Canucks in a blockbuster deal involving Todd Bertuzzi on June 23, 2006. He immediately became the No. 1 puckstopper in Vancouver but was supplanted halfway through the 2012 playoffs by Cory Schneider.
Following the Canucks' ouster by the eventual Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings, Luongo disclosed he was prepared to move on and predicted that the 26-year-old Schneider was going to become “a superstar” in the NHL. Schneider has since signed a three-year, $12-million contract with Vancouver. Luongo, meanwhile, has 10 years remaining on his deal with an annual cap hit of $5.33 million.
He reiterated he has no interest in being Schneider's backup, a scenario not likely to occur in any event due to the money involved. Other possible landing spots for Luongo are Toronto and Chicago.
“Obviously, I want to start, that's a given,'' said Luongo. “You're dealt different situations in life. You've got to handle them the right way. I don't know what's going to happen this year. The only thing I could do is work hard and have a positive attitude. At the end of the day, I'm sure everything is going to work out.''
Canucks management has maintained all along that it would not merely unload Luongo to get rid of the contract and that it wants value in return. The Panthers have two goalies under contract, Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, as well as top prospect Jacob Markstrom.
“It's useless energy wasted on speculating what might happen with Luongo,” Clemmensen told the Sun-Sentinel. “We pretty much have the same lineup that we had last year, as far as goalies are concerned. I feel like we did a great job last year, the three of us who played at this level anyway. I feel confident and very excited to be in the same kind of scenario.”
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