Roberto Luongo figured he was close to staying with the Florida Panthers for a long time. A day later, he was on his way to the Vancouver Canucks.
The 27-year-old restricted free-agent goaltender told reporters during a conference call Saturday that he was nearing a long-term contract agreement with the Panthers before getting a call Friday informing him that he'd been shipped to Vancouver in a five-player trade that sent forward Todd Bertuzzi to Florida.
"I'm really sad because I didn't think this was going to happen," Luongo said. "We made great strides yesterday. I thought we were going to get something long term. I was surprised this whole deal went down."
Along with Bertuzzi, the Canucks shipped defenceman Bryan Allen and goaltender Alex Auld to Florida, which also sent defenceman Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round pick in Saturday's draft to Vancouver.
Luongo believed he had reached a four-year deal with Florida that hinged on three conditions: the team would publicly state that it would not trade him; goaltending coach Francois Allaire, whose contract runs out in Anaheim this summer, would be hired; and veteran Jamie McLennan would return as Luongo's backup.
"They did not want to meet my three expectations, which I thought were not that big a deal," Luongo said.
"I'm really looking forward to the opportunity of making a run at the Stanley Cup, something I never had a chance to do in my prior seasons in Florida."
Luongo said he had wanted to stay in Florida, where his wife is from and where the couple had just moved into a new home, but was looking forward to playing in Vancouver.
However, Luongo would notindicate whether he was close to signing a deal with the Canucks.
Since Luongo is a restricted free agent, Vancouver has the right to match any contract offers made by other clubs. But such offers are rare because if a team holding the rights to a restricted free agent loses the player, it is entitled to a punitive compensation package.
Luongo earned $3.2 million last season as part of an arbitration award and rejected several multiple-year offers from the Panthers — the last for $24 million over four years. He could become an unrestricted free agent next summer if he is notsigned long-term.