Players excited about move South

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The good news for Alex Auld is the former Manitoba Moose puckstopper will continue to get the chance to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL.

The Thunder Bay product was part of the package that saw Todd Bertuzzi and defenceman Bryan Allen go from the Vancouver Canucks to the Florida Panthers for goalie Roberto Luongo, defenceman Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round draft pick.

"It's definitely a surprise but at the same time I'm excited about the opportunity," said Auld, who spent parts of four seasons with the Moose. "I heard about the rumour and the possibility and even though you prepare, when it finally happens, you're still a little shocked.

"All of us are looking forward to the chance. It's a great opportunity, especially for myself personally."

COVETED

Bertuzzi and Luongo are the headliners, but Auld was coveted by Panthers general manager Mike Keenan.

"(Auld) had really strong numbers, he played a lot and he's a big man," said Keenan. "He had a good record, a very successful year and proved he's a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. That satisfied a need we required after trading a goaltender."

Canucks GM Dave Nonis has long coveted Luongo and believes the team has upgraded an important position.

"When you have an opportunity to get arguably the best goaltender in the game, you try to do it," said Nonis. "You're not going to get a player like Roberto Luongo for fifth-round picks."

Former Manitoba Moose head coach Alain Vigneault is thrilled to have Luongo.

"Roberto gives us a chance in every game and hopefully, he'll be here with the Canucks for a long time," said the new Canucks bench boss. "It should enable us to play that high tempo, puck possession, puck pursuit game. Anytime you get one of the top, you've got to give up a lot. We did but I really believe that today we're a better team than we were yesterday."

Luongo said during a conference call he was shocked by the move, considering he thought a four-year contract extension was on the verge of being signed Friday afternoon. He refused to talk about dollar figures or whether he hoped to sign a long-term deal with the Canucks.

He's not concerned about going to a market that has been considered a graveyard for goalies.

"It's a hockey city and (the Canucks) are the talk of the town," said Luongo. "I'm a passionate guy and I'm looking forward to making a run for a Stanley Cup."

Nonis said that despite the depth in goal, he is open to the possibility of re-signing Moose standout Wade Flaherty.

"I wouldn't rule that out at all," said Nonis. "I think a lot of Wade."

Since Luongo can shoulder the load of playing 70-plus games, Flaherty might be a good fit as Luongo's backup. Mika Norenen, acquired at the trade deadline from the Buffalo Sabres, is also in the mix to be No. 2 on the depth chart.


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