Willes: Luongo Twitter theorists add little to trade saga

 

Canucks goalie longs for Florida ... and that’s all we know

 
 
 
 

The least you can say about Monday’s report concerning Roberto Luongo’s preferred destination is it passes the smell test.

As for a more rigorous test of its veracity, sorry. This is the age of Twitter. When information is passed along in 140­character missives there are bound to be holes. And this item left a few questions unanswered.

“There are a lot of stories out there,” said Luongo’s agent Gilles Lupien. “That’s why I don’t pick up the phone. I don’t want to create any new ones.”

No, that will fall to others. But the latest report did create a fresh talking point to this tired story and, in this market, that development can’t be ignored.

On Monday, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch tweeted that Luongo, to this point, had declined to waive his no-trade clause to the Blackhawks or Leafs and was using that clause to steer a trade toward the Panthers.

This, naturally, inspired a flood of stories from the various theorists who inhabit cyberspace and, in short order, the story had morphed from Luongo trying to influence a deal to Luongo rejecting a trade to Leafs (the headline on Slam Sports’ website).

We can’t say much for certain about this saga. But we can say that is categorically false.

As for the rest of it, there is something there. Portzline is a respected reporter in our game and whatever intel he received came from a credible source. The problem, however, lies with people who interpreted the tweet as Luongo stonewalling a trade because there was no trade to stonewall.

Luongo, most assuredly, wants to go to Florida. Given the trade history between the two teams, there’s some comforting news for Canucks fans. His wife is from the Sunshine State. The couple have built a new home there. It also seems Luongo wanted the word out concerning his intentions.

Well, the word is out.

Admittedly, a lot of the parts line up. Florida needs a goalie. They have a treasure chest of young assets and cap space. They also took a huge step this season, making the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons.

But do they want Luongo? Actually, the question is: How badly do they want Luongo?

The Panthers have an elite goaltending prospect in 22-year-old Jacob Markstrom, who recorded a .927 save percentage in the AHL last season. Luongo, you may be aware, also has a fairly hefty contract that doesn’t expire for another decade.

The fit is awkward. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It’s just doubtful it will happen any time soon.

As for the tweet that started the merry-go-round, the key phrase is Luongo “to this point” had declined to waive his no-trade clause to Chicago or Toronto.

He wants to go to Florida. That much is clear. But if all the parties are sitting in the same place at the end of September, that list will grow because it’s 99-per-cent certain Luongo isn’t coming back to Vancouver.

Allowing the one per cent for the faint hope clause, there’s simply been too much water under the bridge for Luongo and Cory Schneider to share the net next season.

To date, everyone has been unfailingly polite about the situation, but when Luongo said he wouldn’t stand in the way of a trade after the Canucks were eliminated by the L.A. Kings in late April, it was tantamount to saying: “I’m out of here.”

You can also understand why. The goalie has put in six seasons with the Canucks and, while he leaves as the greatest goalie in franchise history, his time here has run its course. Somewhere between the playoff failures and the emergence of Schneider as a potential star, Luongo lost his shine in Vancouver.

That doesn’t diminish any of his considerable accomplishments — and six straight 30-win seasons with a save percentage that never went south of .913 is fairly considerable. It’s just time to move on and everyone involved seems to know it.

So this story will continue to meander. Maybe there’s a deal to be made with Florida. Maybe it will happen with Toronto. But it will happen.

And then, my friends, there will be some fearsome tweeting.

ewilles@theprovince.com

 
 
 
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