Roberto Luongo

Luongo: ‘I thought my contract was untradable’

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To hear Roberto Luongo explain it, Tuesday’s blockbuster move to Florida never seemed possible.

“I thought my contract was untradable,” Luongo said, per the Miami Herald. “It hurt I didn’t play [Sunday vs. Ottawa in Heritage Classic] but I was ready to play tonight. I moved on, was ready to go.

“I wasn’t expecting this to happen, especially not today.”

The 34-year-old ‘tender was shipped to Florida in exchange for Jacob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias, with Vancouver retaining 15 percent of Luongo’s salary (a figure confirmed by Panthers GM Dale Tallon via conference call.) It was a big, bold trade that signified a changing of the guard for both organizations.

In discussing the move, Tallon praised Luongo as an “elite” goalie while acknowledging the Panthers needed to “make a statement.” On that, it’s worth noting Tallon repeatedly mentioned that Luongo still holds clout in Florida, a popular figure from his time with the organization from 2002-06.

“He’s excited, just over the moon about coming back,” Tallon said. “He’s already been in the community and is a very popular figure in the community.”

From the Florida perspective, the big narrative is how the organization took on one of the NHL’s largest deals — in what now feels like a move designed to “make a statement” in addition to improving the on-ice product. Tallon talked about how the Luongo acquisition “sets the tone” for what the club wants to do moving forward, echoing statements made yesterday by new team president Rory Babich, who spoke optimistically about the future of the franchise.

“We’re incredibly optimistic,” Babich said, per the Miami Herald. “[Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu] bought the team with the belief it can be very successful in South Florida. Dale and I certainly share that vision. That’s why we’re both here today.”

Luongo acknowledged what his move to Florida signified as well.

“It’s nice, it’s home,” he said. “It’s going to be a little tough to get in this season but we’ll have to deal with that. The new ownership there is committed to winning and there are some good young players there.

“This is a good opportunity for me.”

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.

After advancing to Cup final, DeBoer had Sharks fans coming up to him with ‘tears in their eyes’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Head coach Peter DeBoer addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.

Now he knows.

“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”

The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.

More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.

It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”

Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.

“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”

Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot

Kopitar will play for Slovenia in Olympic qualifiers

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Anze Kopitar #11 of Slovenia skates against Russia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.

RTV Slovenia has the story here.

The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.

The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.

Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.

Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win

Zubrus in, Nieto likely out for Sharks in Stanley Cup Final opener

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Dainius Zubrus #9 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.

But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.

The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.

Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.

Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.