NHL News and Notes

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Wild deal Fernandez to Boston for forward, draft pick
July 1, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Doug Risebrough knew Manny Fernandez would have a hard time accepting a two-goalie system in Minnesota.

So rather than wait for the situation to become a problem in training camp, the Wild general manager nipped it in the bud on the first day of free agency.

The Wild traded Fernandez to the Boston Bruins on Sunday for forward Petr Kalus and a fourth-round draft pick.

``I felt like at some point Manny's situation would resolve itself,'' Risebrough said. ``If we didn't get it done today or in the next few days, it probably would have had to wait until September. But it wasn't like it was going to resolve itself over the summer.''

The trade was approved by the NHL early Sunday morning. The NHL's salary cap increased Sunday, and Fernandez's $4.3 million salary would have pushed the Bruins over the $44 million cap if it had happened before then.

The move also gives the Wild some room under the cap to pursue free agents, though Risebrough said he likes the makeup of his club and is ``looking for pieces, not replacements.''

The 32-year-old Fernandez was one of three original Wild players remaining with the team. He had a record of 113-102-28 in 260 games with the Wild, with a 2.47 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. This past season, Fernandez and fellow goaltender Niklas Backstrom won the William Jennings Trophy, awarded to goalies on the team that gives up the fewest goals.

The goaltender had been on the trading block since the Wild signed Backstrom to a two-year, $6.2 million contract on June 7. The trade means the Wild will start next season with Backstrom as the No. 1 goaltender and 23-year-old Josh Harding, who impressed last season with a 1.65 goals-against and a .942 save percentage, in a backup role.

``I understood that if I was committed to the two-goalie system, of all the three goalies we had, he was the person who was going to least like it,'' Risebrough said. ``This gives him a chance to go to a team that needs a No. 1 goaltender and get more playing time.''

But it also is the ending of an era of sorts in Minnesota.

Fernandez has worn a Wild sweater for all six of the franchise's seasons. He came to Minnesota after playing sparingly in five seasons with the Dallas Stars and became a fan favorite while splitting time with Dwayne Roloson.

``He made a major contribution to our team being as competitive as it has been over the last seven years,'' Risebrough said. ``He helped shape the way our franchise competed.''

The Wild traded Roloson in 2006 and signed Fernandez to a three-year, $13 million extension to be the No. 1 goaltender. He was one of the best goalies in the league in the first two months of last season, but a knee injury flared up in December and knocked him out for good in January.

In 44 games last season, Fernandez posted a 2.55 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.

Backstrom flourished after Fernandez went down. The little-known Finnish free agent led the league in save percentage (.929) and goals-against average (1.97), leading the Wild to their first playoff appearance since 2003.

The Wild picked up the Bruins' fourth-round pick in 2009 and the 20-year-old Kalus, a 2005 second-round pick by the Bruins who is considered a top prospect. He had four goals and an assist in nine games with Boston last season. In 43 games with Providence of the AHL, the Czech native scored 13 goals and had 30 points.

Provided Fernandez is healthy, and all indications are that he will be, the Bruins gained the No. 1 goaltender they have lacked.

Tim Thomas and Joey MacDonald both had GAAs above 3.10, and Hannu Toivonen shuttled up and down between the NHL and the minors as the Bruins missed the playoffs for the second straight season.

``I think all players want to feel like their contribution is significant and meaningful,'' Risebrough said. ``Moving on is not a negative thing for (Fernandez) here.''

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Panthers sign McLean and Zednik
July 1, 2007

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -The Florida Panthers agreed to multiyear deals with free agent forwards Richard Zednik and center Brett McLean on Sunday.

Zednik, a left wing, agreed to a two-year contract and McLean, a center, gets a a three-year deal.

The 31-year-old Zednik has played in 621 career games for Washington, Montreal, and the New York Islanders, recording 320 points. Last season, while playing for both Washington and the New York Islanders, he scored 21 points in 42 games.

The Slovakia native has represented his country in seven international competitions, including thew Olympics and three world championships.

McLean posted career-high marks last season with 15 goals and 20 assists in 78 games for the Colorado Avalanche. He has 106 points in 238 NHL games during his four year career with Colorado and Chicago.

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Rafalski agrees to deal with Red Wings
July 1, 2007

Defenseman Brian Rafalski agreed to a five-year, $30 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, shortly after defenseman Mathieu Schneider chose to leave the team in free agency.

Rafalski scored eight goals and had 55 points last season for the New Jersey Devils. He has 44 career goals and 311 points in seven NHL seasons, all in New Jersey.

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound defenseman was born in Dearborn, just outside of Detroit, and turns 34 in September.

Schneider signed a two-year deal worth $11.25 million with the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks. The 18-year veteran will make $5.5 million this season and $5.75 million the following year. He had 11 goals and 52 points last season for the Red Wings.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland expected to lose Schneider in free agency.

``We would love to have him back, but I expect him to hit the market and I don't blame him,'' Holland said Saturday night. ``He's 38 years old, so he doesn't have a lot of chances to really take advantage of free agency.''

Holland was cautiously optimistic on the eve of NHL free agency that he and Dominik Hasek would agree to contract terms to bring the star goaltender back. The six-time Vezina Trophy winner and two-time MVP informed the Red Wings several weeks ago that he wanted to play in Detroit again.

The Red Wings also want to re-sign forward Todd Bertuzzi, if he is willing to return with a shorter-term contract.

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Ducks sign Schneider
July 1, 2007

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -The Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks signed defenseman Mathieu Schneider to a two-year, $11.25-million deal Sunday as insurance against the loss of captain Scott Niedermayer, who has told the team he is leaning toward retirement.

Schneider, a 38-year-old unrestricted free agent, had 11 goals and 41 assists in 68 games with Detroit last season, his fourth with the Red Wings.

Ducks general manager Brian Burke said in statement Sunday that Niedermayer ``has informed me that he is leaning toward retirement.''

``Typical of his character and leadership, he made the call this morning in order to allow us to make alternative plans in the event he does not return,'' Burke said.

``Although he has not retired and would be welcomed back, we felt adding another top NHL defenseman was critical to defending our championship. Mathieu Schneider fits into that category and will be a great addition to our team.''

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Columbus signs defenseman
July 2, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -The Columbus Blue Jackets agreed to a one-year contract Monday with defenseman Sheldon Brookbank.

The 26-year-old Brookbank, selected as the American Hockey League's top defenseman last season, scored a career-best 15 goals and had 38 assists in 78 games with the Milwaukee Admirals.

He played three games with the Nashville Predators last season, picking up his only NHL point with an assist against Pittsburgh on Feb. 6. He'll bolster the Blue Jackets' blue line, decimated by injuries a year ago.

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Penguins add Stanley Cup vets Sykora, Sydor
July 2, 2007

PITTSBURGH (AP) -The Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the most improved teams in NHL history last season. General manager Ray Shero was convinced they needed to get even better to challenge for the Stanley Cup.

The Penguins, not resting after their turnaround season, signed two former Stanley Cup winners Monday in right wing Petr Sykora and defenseman Darryl Sydor.

The signings add another proven scorer and some more protection for young stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal - and some age to one of the NHL's youngest teams.

Also, the Penguins brought back goaltender Dany Sabourin as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup after he spent part of last season with Vancouver. The team also re-signed defenseman Rob Scuderi.

The first two days of free agency proved unexpectedly busy for the Penguins, who kept rising star defenseman Ryan Whitney by giving him a $24 million, six-year contract.

After signing the 30-year-old Sykora and the 35-year-old Sydor, Shero cited the Stanley Cup experience they will bring to a team that previously had only three players who have taken more than a few shifts in the postseason. Sydor won the Cup with Dallas in 1999 and Tampa Bay in 2004 and Sykora starred on New Jersey's Cup-winning team in 2000.

The Penguins won 47 games last season after winning only 22 the season before, and their 47-point improvement was the fourth best in NHL history. Despite having the second-best regular season in club history, the Penguins were eliminated in five games by eventual Eastern Conference champion Ottawa in their first-round playoff series.

``Any time you can add a multiple Stanley Cup winner to a team like ours, it is a bonus,'' Shero said.

Sykora has 26 goals and 33 assists in 88 career playoff games while twice playing in the Stanley Cup finals. He was also with the 2003 Anaheim team that lost the Cup in seven games to New Jersey.

``Petr is a talented forward who can play in all situations,'' Shero said. ``Petr joining our hockey club provides us with another talented player that will complement our current group of forwards.''

Sykora tied for the Edmonton team lead in scoring with 22 goals and 31 assists last season, playing in all 82 games - the seventh time in his career he has scored 20 or more goals. Sydor had five goals and 16 assists in 74 games with Dallas, where he has spent most of his career.

Adding Sydor deepens the Penguins on the blue line, where they already have Sergei Gonchar, Whitney, Mark Eaton, Brooks Orpik, Scuderi and rookie Kris Letang, who figures to stick with the club in 2007-08. Sydor has also played on the power play during his career.

The Penguins also took a run at signing defenseman Scott Hannan, who left San Jose for Colorado, and forward Paul Kariya, who left Nashville for St. Louis. Both signed deals the Penguins felt was beyond their price range.

But Shero also took pre-emptive action before free agency, signing veteran forwards Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi to one-year deals on June 22. The Penguins were concerned the 41-year-old Roberts, who had seven goals and six assists in 19 games after being dealt to them by Florida last season, would prove attractive on the open market despite his age.

The Penguins anticipated they could bring back the 39-year-old Recchi, who was their No. 3 scorer with 24 goals and 44 assists last season but slumped late in the season. Bringing back Roberts wasn't as certain, and now they've got Sykora to go with him.

``He brings additional veteran experience and adds another Stanley Cup-tested player to our roster,'' Shero said.

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Lightning sign a pair of free agent forwards
July 2nd, 2007

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning signed free agent forwards Craig MacDonald and Mathieu Darche to one-year contracts on Monday.

The 30-year-old MacDonald spent last season with the Chicago Blackhawks, scoring three goals and picking up two assists in 25 games.

In 160 career regular season games with Carolina, Florida, Boston, Calgary and Chicago, MacDonald has eight goals and 14 assists.

"Craig is a veteran player with significant NHL experience who will be given every opportunity to make our hockey team," said Tampa Bay executive vice president and general manager Jay Feaster. "He is a high-character guy who plays hard and competes every shift. He has very good hockey sense, is responsible defensively, is good on draws and is strong on his skates. He does all of the little things it takes to win hockey games and that makes him a good fit for us. He is also a leader at the AHL level and is exactly the kind of depth player we need to continue adding to our organization. We look forward to having him compete for a spot on our roster in camp."

Darche has played in 28 games with Columbus, Nashville and San Jose over his career, scoring one goal to go along with one assist.

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Predators ink Bonk, de Vries
July 3rd, 2007

Nashville, TN (Sports Network) - The Nashville Predators signed free agent forward Radek Bonk and free agent defenseman Greg de Vries to two-year contracts.

"We are very excited to add these two veteran players to the Nashville lineup," said Nashville executive vice president and general manager David Poile. "Bonk is a big, experienced center that can play the shut-down defensive role and also fill in more offensive situations. Greg de Vries has Stanley Cup experience as well as size and skill and he will be a mentor to our defense corps."

The 31-year-old Bonk played in 74 games with the Montreal Canadiens last season, scoring 13 goals and adding 10 assists.

The 34-year-old de Vries had three goals and 21 helpers in 82 games for the Atlanta Thrashers last year

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Ducks sign Bertuzzi to two-year deal
July 2nd, 2007

Anaheim, CA (Sports Network) - The Anaheim Ducks signed right wing Todd Bertuzzi to a two-year contract on Monday.

Per club policy, no financial terms of the deal were released.

Bertuzzi missed most of last season battling through a herniated disk. The 32- year-old was limited to seven games with Florida before the Panthers shipped him to Detroit for Shawn Matthias and two conditional draft picks. Bertuzzi totaled two goals and two assists in eight regular season games for the Red Wings and three goals and four assists through 16 playoff games.

A first-round pick (23rd overall) by the Islanders in the 1993 draft, Bertuzzi's best years came while playing with Vancouver. He notched 70-plus points three times with the Canucks and his best season came in 2002-03, when Bertuzzi posted career-highs in goals (46), assists (51) and games played (82).

The Sudbury, Ontario native has 540 points (226 goals, 314 assists) in 725 career games with the Isles, Canucks, Panthers and the Red Wings.

However, Bertuzzi will likely always be best-remembered for the incident with Colorado's Steve Moore in March of 2004. Bertuzzi, in an apparent retaliation for a hit Moore delivered against Canucks captain Markus Naslund earlier in the season, punched Moore from behind and drove him face-first into the ice.

Moore suffered three fractured neck vertebrae, facial cuts and a severe concussion from the hit and hasn't played since. For his actions, Bertuzzi was suspended for the final 13 games of the 2003-04 season and the playoffs.

The Canucks eventually traded Bertuzzi to the Florida prior to last season in the deal that brought goaltender Roberto Luongo to Vancouver.

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Kings agree to terms with four free agents
July 2nd, 2007

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Kings made their first dip into the free agent market on Monday and made a big splash as the team agreed to terms with defenseman Tom Preissing and center Michal Handzus to four-year contracts, left wing Kyle Calder to a two-year contract, and left wing Ladislav Nagy to a one-year contract.

Preissing, 28, has played in 223 career games with 20 goals and 80 assists and 56 penalty minutes. The defenseman played two seasons with San Jose from 2003-04 and 2005-06 before leading all Senators defensemen in points with seven goals and 31 assists last year for Ottawa.

Handzus, 30, has 115 goals and 185 assists with 313 penalty minutes over eight NHL seasons, including this past season with the Chicago Blackhawks and three with the Philadelphia Flyers, two with the Phoenix Coyotes and three with the St. Louis Blues.

Calder, 28, has registered 99 goals and 146 assists with 242 penalty minutes over seven seasons, six of which were with the Blackhawks from 1999-06 before splitting last season between Philadelphia and Detroit.

Nagy, 28, has 106 goals and 179 assists with 340 penalty minutes over seven NHL seasons with Dallas, Phoenix, and St. Louis.

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Thrashers sign D Klee
July 2nd, 2007

Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - The Atlanta Thrashers agreed to terms with defenseman Ken Klee on a multi-year contract Monday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The 35-year-old Klee signed with Colorado prior to last season and appeared in a career-high 81 games for the Avalanche, recording three goals and 16 assists while leading the team with a plus-18 rating.

The 12-year veteran has registered 53 goals, 121 assists and 792 penalty minutes in 791 career games with Washington, Toronto, New Jersey and Colorado.

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Hamrlik signs with Canadiens
July 2nd, 2007

Montreal, QB (Sports Network) - The Montreal Canadiens signed defenseman Roman Hamrlik to a four-year contract Monday.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Hamrlik, 33, spent the last two seasons with the Calgary Flames. In 75 games last season he scored seven goals and recorded 31 assists.

"Roman Hamrlik established himself as a solid NHL veteran. The acquisition of Roman fills a very important need in our organization. He is a strong defenseman with a powerful shot and excellent hockey skills. He brings to our club a solid experience and an excellent reputation," said Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey.

A 14-year NHL veteran, Hamrlik has played 350 games recording 171 points with a plus-60 differential. He has played in 999 regular season games, recording 505 points and 131 goals.

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Caps land Nylander
July 2nd, 2007

Arlington, VA (Sports Network) - The Washington Capitals signed free agent center Michael Nylander to a four-year contract on Monday. Per team policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Nylander, 34, posted career highs in goals (26), assists (57) and points (83) in 79 games for the New York Rangers last season.

A third-round choice of the Hartford Whalers in 1991, Nylander will be making his second stop in Washington. He also played with the team after being acquired from Chicago on November 1, 2002 until being dealt to Boston on March 4, 2004.

In 808 games over 13 seasons, he has recorded 189 goals and 420 assists while lacing the skates for Hartford, Calgary, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Washington, Boston and New York.

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Flames sign Owen Nolan
July 3rd, 2007

Calgary, AB (Sports Network) - The Calgary Flames signed free agent forward Owen Nolan to a one-year contract Tuesday. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Nolan, a five-time All-Star, spent last season with the Phoenix Coyotes and scored 16 goals and picked up 24 assists in 76 games.

In 991 career regular season games with Quebec/Colorado, San Jose, Toronto and Phoenix, Nolan has 365 goals and 410 assists.

Nolan was originally drafted first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft.

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Devils sign Zubrus
July 3rd, 2007

East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - The New Jersey Devils signed free- agent forward Dainius Zubrus on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old Zubrus recorded career highs last season in goals (24), assists (36) and points (60) in 79 games split between Washington and Buffalo.

"I knew that the decision [to sign with the Devils] would be a hockey decision," Zubrus said. "I want to win and that's why I wanted to come here. I believe in this team and the success they've had."

The 10-year veteran was Philadelphia's first-round pick (15th overall) in the 1996 Entry Draft. He has 138 goals and 222 assists in 689 career games.

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Leafs sign Battaglia
July 3rd, 2007

Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - The Toronto Maple Leafs re-signed forward Bates Battaglia to a two-year contract on Tuesday.

Battaglia played in all 82 games for the Maple Leafs last season and registered 12 goals and 19 assists with a plus-nine rating.

"We are very happy to have Bates back with us," said general manager John Ferguson. "He provides great durability and versatility and will continue to play an important role with the hockey club this season."

Over eight seasons in the NHL, he has played in 567 games and has recorded 80 goals and 118 assists. He has also donned the jerseys of Carolina, Colorado and Washington.

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Oilers bring in Garon
July 3rd, 2007

Edmonton, AB (Sports Network) - The Edmonton Oilers signed free agent goaltender Mathieu Garon to a two-year contract on Tuesday.

Garon, 29, appeared in 32 games for the Los Angeles Kings last season and posted a 13-10-6 record with a 2.66 goals-against average with two shutouts.

In six seasons in the NHL, his first four with Montreal and the past two with Los Angeles, he has a 60-56-3-9 record with a 2.86 GAA with 10 shutouts in 138 appearances.

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Wild sign trio of players
July 3rd, 2007

St. Paul, MN (Sports Network) - The Minnesota Wild signed center Eric Belanger to a multi-year contract and also signed center Wes Walz and goaltender Nolan Schaefer on Tuesday. No further terms of the deals were disclosed.

Belanger split time last season between Carolina and Atlanta and in 80 games tallied 17 goals and 18 assists.

In six seasons in the NHL, all but one with Los Angeles, he has appeared in 403 games and scored 80 goals and added 105 assists.

"Eric is a strong two-way center who can score, play a responsible game and bring consistent energy at both ends of the rink," said Wild general manager Doug Risebrough.

Walz, who has been with Minnesota since the team came into the league in the 2000-01 season, was a free agent, but re-signed with the team that gave him a second chance in the NHL.

He started his career in Boston during the 1989-90 season and also played for the Flyers, Flames and Red Wings, but after the 1995-96 season played in Europe before being picked up by the team prior to the start of the 2000-01 season.

He is the franchise leader in games played (427) and ranks second in points with 81 goals and 178 assists.

In 596 career NHL games he has 108 goals and 148 assists.

Playing for Worcester, Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League last season, Schaefer went 14-16-3 with a 2.64 goals-against average and one shutout in 34 games.

"Nolan is a young goaltender with a strong record in the minor leagues and some experience in the NHL and has great potential to become a full-time NHL goaltender," said Minnesota assistant general manager Tom Lynn said.

The 27-year-old appeared in seven games with San Jose in 2005-06 and posted a 5-1-0 record with a 1.88 goals-against average and one shutout. During that run, he became the first Sharks' goaltender to begin his career with five consecutive wins.

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Lightning bring back Lukowich
July 3rd, 2007
Tampa Bay, FL (Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday brought back defenseman Brad Lukowich as the team signed the free agent to a three- year contract.

Lukowich was a member of the Lightning during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons and set a career high in goals (five) and points (19) as he was a key component of Tampa Bay's Stanley Cup championship in 2004.

He signed with the Islanders as a free agent prior to the start of the 2005-06 season and was then traded to the Devils at the trade deadline on March 9, 2006.

Last season with the Devils he appeared in 75 games and had four goals and eight assists.

"Brad Lukowich is a warrior," Tampa Bay general manager Jay Feaster said. "He plays the game with his heart on his sleeve and he does whatever it takes to win. He knows our system, he knows our core personnel, he knows how we do things in Tampa and what we expect from our players, and he is a winner. He is also a very good teammate and a popular player in the locker room. He has personality and spirit and old-school flair about him. We like everything about him and we are thrilled to welcome him back to our hockey team."

Over nine seasons in the NHL, which included his first five with Dallas, he has appeared in 523 games and totaled 21 goals and 75 assists and is a plus-48.

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Canucks sign three free agents
July 3rd, 2007

Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The Vancouver Canucks signed three free agents on Tuesday, bringing in center Byron Ritchie, left wing Brad Isbister and goaltender Curtis Sanford to contracts. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

The team also re-signed defenseman Lukas Krajicek to a new contract.

Ritchie, 30, played in 64 games for the Calgary Flames last season and totaled eight goals and six assists.

He has also played for Carolina and Florida and has 22 goals and 25 assists in 253 career games.

Isbister played in just 19 games last year with the New York Rangers and had just one goal and four assists.

He has 100 goals and 211 points in 486 career games. He has also skated with Phoenix, the Islanders, Edmonton and Boston.

Sanford, 27, appeared in 31 games with the St. Louis Blues last season and posted an 8-12-5 record with a 3.18 goals-against average. In 73 career NHL games, all with St. Louis, he is 26-26-10 with a 2.79 GAA and four shutouts.

The 24-year-old Krajicek scored three goals and added 13 assists in 78 games in his first season with the Canucks last year. Vancouver originally acquired the Czech blueliner from the Florida Panthers last offseason in the Roberto Luongo deal.

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