What a wild time for the Panthers. With the draft looming Saturday night the Cats pulled off a huge trade sending Roberto Luongo to Vancouver for three players that will step right into the line-up. Forward Todd Bertuzzi, defenseman Bryan Allen and goalie Alex Auld are now Panthers. Also sent to the Canucks was defenseman Lukas Krajicek. The Cats tried like heck to sign Luongo not once, twice, three but four times with deals going well over $6M. Luongo's camp didn't want the deal and I feel forced the Panthers hand. The one thing Florida could not do is go into the season with Luongo on a one year deal. The situation would have been a black cloud around this team all season and had the Panthers lost him as an unrestricted free agent they'd have gotten nothing back. Instead the Panthers get a 25 year old goalie who was solid last season with 33 wins and a goals against under 3, a big strong 25 year old defenseman who will be in the top with Jay Bouwmeester, Mike Van Ryn and likely a free agent. And the key to it all is the type of power player up front we have always hoped for but never seen in a Cats sweater. Two-time All-Star Todd Bertuzzi, all 6'3" 245 lbs of him will add to an already solid stable of forwards. Bertuzzi scored at least 25 goals in five of the last six seasons and has had seasons of 36 and 46 goals. He is big, mean, tough and skilled and the change of scenery plus playing the final year of his contract could mean a monster season.
It is sad to see Roberto Luongo go as he has been here for the tough times and won't be for the real good ones that started last season and will carry over. But it was ultimately his choice to leave Florida and the $6M+ per year, long term was not enough. I'm not sure why he thought the team would trade him as ownership and Coach Martin have always been in his corner. I wish him luck down the road but always knowing that his departure could have been avoided if he wanted to be here. The Panthers move on, I feel a better team now than before. There was a right wing hole up front...filled. Two holes in the top four defense...one filled and the other will be this summer. And in Auld the Cats get a player who has good upside and was a strong goalie. The three new players make about the same salary as Luongo would have if he signed the multi-year deal, thus for the same money, more positions are filled.