It’s no secret that since Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo became a backup to Cory Schneider late last season that he longs to return to South Florida and has been working out at the Panthers facility since August.
On Tuesday he told the Sun Sentinel that nothing has changed other than he has given his general manager Mike Gillis the green light to improve the Canucks anyway he can. He has softened his stance on possible destinations such as Florida or Toronto, and is flying to Vancouver Thursday to join his teammates.
“My mind is open to other possibilites right now, we’ll see,’’ Luongo said. “The funniest quote I saw yesterday was I was practicing in the Panthers facility, in a Canucks jersey on with a [former] Maple Leafs goalie coach. That sums it up for you.’’
"[Gillis] has the green light to take his time and do what’s best for the team,’’ added Luongo, who lives in nearby Parkland with his family. “Obviously, I’m open-minded about a lot of possibilities. We’ll work things out together and figure things out as we go along here.’’
Luongo said his agent is making calls but he won’t hear back until the CBA is ratified on Wednesday.
“It’s touch and go right now. I’m getting ready as if I’m going to Vancouver for the regular start of the season. Once Mike talks to me we’ll make some decisions,’’ he said. “It’ll be an interesting few weeks.’’
Luongo, 33, who played for the Panthers from 1999 to 2006, has 10 years left on a contract with an annual salary cap hit of $5.33 million. The Panthers have veteran goalies Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen under contract for one and two more years respectively, while prospect Jacob Markstrom is still projected as the heir apparent.
“There’s nothing to say. [Tomas Vokoun] would want to play here too; he’s been training with us for the last week if you'd asked him,’’ Theodore said after practice at Glacier Ice and Snow Arena in nearby Lighthouse Point. “Louie committed to Vancouver for 12 years. Until he gets traded that’s where he is.’’
Luongo has seven 30-win season and a career goals-against-average of 2.52, as well as a 32-29 record in the playoffs. He has been working with former goalies Vokoun as well as Craig Anderson, who played for the Panthers from 2006-09, but now starts for Ottawa.
“There’s going to be teams out there that really needs him,’’ Anderson said. “It’s just a matter of finding a good home for him. He’s one of the top five goaltenders in the league consistently over the past five years. You can’t replace a guy like that, especially if you have a team that’s borderline to make a run for it. He’s the guy who can put you over the edge. I don’t want to face him more than once a year.’’