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Report: Luongo prefers returning to Panthers

by Brian Compton

If the Vancouver Canucks are going to trade Roberto Luongo, the world-class goaltender would like to return to the place where he became a star.

Luongo, who has been replaced as the No. 1 goaltender in Vancouver by Cory Schneider, told the Sun-Sentinel on Tuesday that he would prefer to be traded to the Florida Panthers. The 33-year-old maintains a residence in South Florida during the offseason and remains the Panthers' all-time leader in games played (317), victories (108) and shutouts (26).

"It's been a tough summer, not knowing what's going to happen," Luongo told the newspaper. "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] makes sense for myself, for my career and my family. That being said, there's obvious 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."

There are a couple of variables that could get in the way of a Luongo return to Florida. For starters, he still has 10 years remaining on his contract that carries an average annual value of $5.33 million annually. Also, the Panthers are very high on 22-year-old Jacob Markstrom, their second-round pick (No. 31) from the 2008 NHL Draft who had a .923 save percentage in seven appearances for the big club last season.

Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 31-14-8
GAA: 2.41 | SVP: 0.919
And, of course, there's Jose Theodore, who enjoyed a resurgence in 2011-12, going 22-16-11 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .916 save percentage for the Southeast Division-winning Panthers. Theodore has one year remaining on his deal.

"At this point there's no use talking about speculation," Theodore told the paper last week. "It's been a quiet summer for me. I didn't have to make any tough decisions on where to sign or where to go, a good quiet summer. I didn't really follow what went on. I was back home just relaxing and working out with my personal trainer.

"I want to retire here, for sure. All the players were part of the process last year and it was a good start. I feel like I've got a lot more years in front of me and this is the place. I like the fans; I like where the team is going, the organization, so obviously, I want to be part of that process."

Scott Clemmensen, who still has two years remaining on his contract with the Panthers, is also in the mix. The 35-year-old, who went 14-6-6 with a 2.57 GAA last season, told the Sun-Sentinel he won't spend any time worrying about if or when Luongo is traded to Florida.

"It's useless energy wasted on speculating what might happen with him," Clemmensen said of Luongo. "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."

Luongo has made one thing perfectly clear this offseason -- wherever he is dealt, he has no intentions of watching games from the bench.

"Obviously, I want to start. That's a given," he said. "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."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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