Luongo toes the Canucks line
After being prepped by team officials, goalie claims he’s comfortable here, in no rush to be traded
There may not be direct flights from Coral Springs to Vancouver, but there is a U-turn.
Roberto Luongo backed off his honest, edgy, outspoken offseason approach and portrayed himself as a good company man once again when he re-appeared in Vancouver Wednesday at the Canucks’ charity golf tournament.
After being prepped by Canucks’ staff, Luongo declined opportunities to discuss his desire to play in Florida, something he did just a few days ago. He distanced himself from comments he made earlier in the summer. He refused to say whether he’d accept a trade to Toronto, or anywhere else.
He added that if he started the season backing up de-facto starter Cory Schneider it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Even if you know he could see it from there.
What happened to the player who admitted “it’s time to move on” in July?
“I don’t think there’s any point to being like that,” Luongo said. “It’s not good for anybody. I think if anything it just creates negativity around the team and around myself.
“Like I said before, it’s not the worst thing in the world. I am comfortable here. It’s been my home for six years and it’s not a big deal for me.
“Two months ago, after what had just happened and Schneids had just signed ... I didn’t really see myself being here for training camp. But I realized once we got into August that was a possibility and I was OK with that.”
The about-face allowed him to align with Canucks’ management, presenting a unified front with GM Mike Gillis, who has claimed all summer he could bring both goalies back, vowing he will wait as long as it takes to get the right deal. What he says he won’t do is just give Luongo away.
“We’re one of the wealthiest teams in the league, so we don’t have fire sales,” Gillis said. “Our ownership has been completely supportive in everything we’ve done. They are going to be completely supportive in this matter.
“If someone thinks we’re going to have a fire sale, they’re wrong.”
Gillis admitted the team has had some “solid” offers for the goalie, but not from Florida. The Panthers haven’t been in the ballpark, and have instead made proposals that were more about shedding salary than giving up assets.
There is a good reason talks have cooled, other than that the Panthers already have two NHL goalies signed. A new CBA promises to impact the Panthers as much as any team in the league, which is why it makes sense for them to wait for a new agreement before considering just how serious a final pitch they will make for Luongo. And that’s one of the reasons why a Luongo deal isn’t happening until there is a new CBA.
It leaves Luongo sitting in the same spot he’s been in for four months — in limbo, waiting for Gillis, as Luongo puts it, to “do his thing.”
“There’s been some ups and downs, I think,” Luongo said. “Some moments have been a bit more stressful, and other times you kind of forget about it a little bit. So you don’t know how it’s going to go, you don’t know what to expect.
“But I think I’ve dealt with it fairly well.”
He certainly dealt with it well from the Canucks’ perspective Wednesday. The less Luongo mentions Florida and the more he talks about coming back, the more Gillis’s leverage improves in a trade market that looks from the outside to be as thin as peach skin.
Luongo dodged questions about Florida. But so did Gillis when asked if the goalie and his agent are angling for a deal to the Sunshine State.
“Trade clauses allow the player, I mean that’s why they get them, and they are part of the negotiating process,” Gillis said. “He’s entitled to try and be selective.
“But at the end of the day, you are either going to play hockey or you’re not going to play hockey. We’re going to do our best to make sure Roberto is taken care of, whether he’s here or somewhere else.
“We’re going to look at his best interests, but also ours.”
None of the parties involved want to see Luongo in a Canucks uniform when the season starts. Luongo wants to be a starter. The Canucks don’t want $9.3 million in cap money tied up in one position. And no one wants to be a part of the gong show it will be in the locker room with the media.
Even Gillis got a little agitated when asked about how his team would handle a goalie circus.
“I don’t know if you guys have ever been on a team, a hockey team,” Gillis said. “But these are issues that are left outside the dressing room, for the most part. They’re not awkward in the sense that you want to make them awkward.
“I don’t anticipate any problems in this situation. But I know it will be a story every day. It wasn’t a story every day last year when Cory was playing in important games and Roberto was playing in important games. But it will be this year, which is unfortunate.
“It’s what we have to face, but I think our team is strong enough. I think internally we have the right leadership to not have this affect how they play or how they go about their business.”
But, as Henrik Sedin said, at least they’re used to it.
He said: “The goaltending situation has been a distra-, I mean, it could have been a distraction for a few years now. But we’ve handled it really well. The goalies have handled it really well.”
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