(Reuters) - The Vancouver Canucks traded goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday in a stunning move one day before the National Hockey League's trade deadline.
Luongo, the subject of trade rumors for nearly two years, and winger Steven Anthony were traded to Florida for goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias, the teams said in separate statements.
"I thought my contract was immovable," Luongo said on TSN radio from Phoenix where the Canucks are scheduled to play the Coyotes later on Tuesday. "I would never have thought I would be traded before the deadline."
A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist as the NHL's top goalie and finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player, Luongo helped Vancouver reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, where they lost to Boston in a decisive seventh game.
But the 34-year-old goalie was unable to maintain his form and has been the subject of trade rumors since losing his starting job to Cory Schneider during the 2012 playoffs.
The Canucks made previous attempts to trade Luongo but his massive 12-year contract worth $64 million that was signed in 2009 proved a major sticking point in making a deal.
Schneider was eventually traded to New Jersey in mid-2013 and it was expected Luongo would reclaim the starting job.
He filled the role for most of the current season but Eddie Lack has started in each of Vancouver's three games since last month's Olympic break.
Luongo, who spent five seasons with Florida earlier in his career, was in net for the Canadian team that won the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and was the backup goalie on the national team that triumphed at last month's Sochi Games.
Luongo, who is under contract through the 2021-22 campaign, spent nearly eight NHL seasons with the Canucks and leaves as the team's all-time leader in shutouts, wins and most wins in a single season.
"Roberto is one of the game's elite goaltenders and we are happy to welcome him back to South Florida," Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said in a statement.
"With this acquisition, we have solidified our goaltending depth with a top-tiered netminder for the next several seasons."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Larry Fine in New York; editing by Ken Ferris)
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