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Canucks swap Bertuzzi for Luongo in multiplayer deal

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Florida Panthers acquired
forward Todd Bertuzzi in exchange for goaltender Roberto Luongo as
part of a five-player trade with the Vancouver Canucks on Friday
night.

The Canucks also sent promising young goaltender Alex Auld and
defenseman Bryan Allen to the Panthers in exchange for Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round pick in Saturday's draft in Vancouver.

Roberto Luongo Luongo

Todd Bertuzzi Bertuzzi

Canucks general manager Dave Nonis said it was time for a change
for scenery for Bertuzzi, who was suspended for the end of the
2003-04 season and playoffs after his on-ice attack left Colorado's
Steve Moore with fractured vertebrae in his neck and a concussion
that has so far prevented him from returning to the NHL.

"Todd will be better off in a new city," said Nonis, noting
Bertuzzi never asked for a trade but they talked about it. "Todd
never said 'I'll never play in Vancouver again,' but I think he
recognized and we had some discussions that if there was a
situation that worked for him elsewhere, then maybe it was better
for him to move on. He's been really unfairly hammered in this
market and I think he'll be better off in Florida."

Bertuzzi was also given a year's probation and sentenced to 80
hours of community service after pleading guilty in a Vancouver
court to criminal assault and receiving a conditional discharge. He
still faces a civil suit launched by Moore.

"I think coming to our organization is going to be somewhat of
a relief for him," Panthers general manager Mike Keenan said in a
telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Bertuzzi had 25 goals and 71 points last season, a drop from his
best season in 2002-2003, when he scored 46 goals and 51 assists.
Bertuzzi has one year left on his contract for $5.2 million and
will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

"I think a lot of Todd Bertuzzi and I think he's going to have
a very good year next year," Nonis said.

The 27-year-old Luongo could also become a free agent next
summer after turning down several offers from the Panthers, most
recently because he wants a no-trade clause, something no team can
offer under the new CBA until after the upcoming season.

"I think it was a bit of a shock for him," Nonis said of
Luongo. "But he seemed very excited about coming here, and we're
going to do our best to get him signed and have him in Vancouver
for a long time."

Luongo was 35-30-0 with a 2.97 goals-against average and .914
save percentage last season, but was a finalist for the Vezina
Trophy as the league's best goaltender two seasons ago with a .931
save percentage.

"I think it's a very good day for the Florida Panthers,"
Keenan said. "We tried and worked very hard at resolving a
contract situation with Roberto Luongo. As an organization, we made
a decision we had to move forward and doing so satisfied a lot of
the needs that we had."

The Panthers had until Monday to make Luongo a qualifying offer
for the 2006-07 season, but -- since they were never able to agree
with Luongo on a long-term extension -- would likely have sent the
goaltender elsewhere anyway before next season's trade deadline.

Without that long-term deal, or a trade, Florida conceivably
could have lost Luongo and gotten nothing in return. And the
Panthers -- who offered Luongo a $30 million, five-year deal in
January -- simply couldn't afford to let that happen.

"I never said I wanted to leave, and I love it here in
Florida," Luongo said in April, shortly after the Panthers
finished their regular season but again missed the playoffs. "If
things go the way they're supposed to, there shouldn't be any
reason why I'm not going to be here.

Krajicek, a 23-year-old defenseman, had two goals and 16 points
in 67 games last season.

Auld, 25, is also a former Panthers' draft pick, taken in the
second round in 1999. He was traded to Vancouver in 2001 and was
the Canucks' MVP this season after taking over for injured starter
Dan Cloutier, finishing 33-26-0 with a .902 save percentage in his
first full NHL season.

Cloutier is expected to be ready for next season, and since the
Canucks also have Mika Noronen, a goalie was expendable. Cloutier
is slated to make $2.5 million contract next season, a hefty price
to pay a backup goaltender.

"When you have an opportunity to get arguably one of the best
goaltenders in the game," Nonis said of Luongo, "you try to do
it."

Auld figures to be Florida's starter next season.

"He's an individual that stepped into a difficult situation
this year and proved he's a No. 1 NHL goaltender," Keenan said.
"When you look at them side-by-side, his numbers are very close to
Roberto's, although I'm not making comparisons between one goalie
and the other."

Earlier this month, the Panthers did not pickup the contract
option year on Jamie McLennan, Luongo's backup last season.

Allen had seven goals and 17 points in 77 games last season.