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Roberto Luongo trade: Panthers acquire goaltender from Canucks

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The Florida Panthers have acquired Roberto Luongo in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

It took some time, and there were several roadblocks, but Roberto Luongo has finally been traded to the Florida Panthersaccording to Renaud Lavoie.

TSN's James Duthie confirmed Tuesday that Luongo is currently signing trade papers and has become a member of the Panthers. Duthie adds that Vancouver will acquire 24-year-old goaltender Jacob Markstrom and 26-year-old forward Shawn Matthias in return. It's believed that Vancouver will retain a portion of Luongo's contract as part of the deal.

This development is the highlight of this year's trade deadline. Luongo's future has hung in the balance for the better part of the last 18 months.

After a trying performance during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, which saw the No. 1-seeded Vancouver Canucks fall to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, discord between Luongo and Vancouver became evident. Trade chatter began and many assumed that Luongo would be moved so that Cory Schneider, his heir apparent, could take over the reigns as the Canucks' No. 1 goaltender.

However, Luongo's massive 12-year, $64 million contract kept a trade from happening. The result was a strange purgatory that lasted through last year's deadline, when Luongo expressed that his contract sucked, all the way to the 2013 NHL Draft, when the situation was finally resolved with the trade of Schneider to the New Jersey Devils.

The decision elicited shock throughout the league and was a stinging blow to Luongo who believed his time in Vancouver had passed. After several days of silence, Luongo stated he was willing to return to Vancouver this season and continue his career. Despite skepticism, it appeared as though that was the plan.

That is, until this Sunday's Heritage Classic, which backup Eddie Lack played instead of Luongo. Ears perked up again and rumors began that Luongo was pushing for a trade out of Vancouver. It now appears that Lack's start was the final straw.

There has been much discussion about the future of the Canucks in recent weeks, with many believing that the team is need of restructuring. There is concern about a lack of forward prospects in the ages 20-25 range and a deficient amount of production from players currently on the roster. To make matters worse, center Ryan Kesler is reportedly seeking a trade and both Sedin twins have experienced injuries this year. At the very least, Luongo's trade might signal the end of Vancouver's time as a major player in the Western Conference.

With less than 24 hours remaining before Wednesday's trade deadline, Vancouver is a team to keep an eye on.