Gillis says fun face-to-face with Luongo nets positive feedback
Canucks' GM confident veteran goalie will be back in Vancouver to lead NHL squad
General manager Mike Gillis met with season ticket holders and fans on Tuesday, then spoke with reporters following the National Hockey League team's 'summer summit' at Rogers Arena. Gillis covered a lot of ground, including the hiring of a new head coach, his off-season 'reset,' the trade of Cory Schneider to New Jersey and the decision to keep Roberto Luongo and again make him the team's starting netminder.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG
Vancouver Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo has yet to be heard from since Cory Schneider was traded to New Jersey, rather than him, but GM Mike Gillis sounded confident that Luongo will show up this season and play well for the Canucks.
“I have full confidence in Roberto and I have full confidence that he’ll be here and that’s how we’re operating,” Gillis said Tuesday night following a promotional event at Rogers Arena with season tickets holders and fans.
Gillis flew to Luongo’s off-season home in South Florida on July 15 to meet with the 34-year-old puckstopper and told reporters the conversation went well.
“It was fine, it was good,” Gillis said. “It was fun. It was amiable. It wasn’t stressful. We talked about the team and we talked about the coaching change. We talked pretty well about everything we could possibly talk about. I told Roberto how I felt about him and how we felt about him as an organization.
“We talked about a variety of different things. All-in-all, we spent about 3½ hours together. I’m not sure how to describe it. It was just a normal conversation with a guy that I have known for a while. I didn’t leave with any sense of trepidation.”
Asked where he felt Luongo was emotionally, Gillis declined to answer.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” replied the GM. “There are some things that will remain private.”
Asked if Luongo was stunned by the unexpected development that he remains a Canuck, Gillis said: “I don’t want to put words in his mouth. I think he’ll have an opportunity to answer all these questions on his own. All I can tell you is we had a great visit.”
Asked when that Luongo-will-talk opportunity might be, Gillis said he would consult with Canuck vice-president of communications TC Carling. He did emphasis that Luongo’s silence was a bigger issue to the media than it was to him. Luongo does have nine years remaining on his whopper of a contract.
“I mean, you guys place different emphasis on that than I do,” Gillis said. “I left it with Roberto. I told him we’d talk again this week and I think we’ll leave it to TC to advise us what the next steps would be in that regard.”
Gillis did concede that Luongo’s inclusion on Canada’s preliminary roster for the Sochi Olympics certainly helps matters.
“There are a lot of reasons why Roberto Luongo is going to be part of this hockey team and that’s maybe one,” Gillis explained. “There are a lot of positive things. You guys know him. You’ve all spoken to him for years. He’s a professional and he knows what he has to do.”
In other news arising from Tuesday’s summer summit:
New head coach John Tortorella took the opportunity to announce his staff will be comprised of Mike Sullivan, who was with him in both New York and Tampa, former Dallas head coach Glen Guluzan, returning goalie coach Rollie Melanson and returning video coach Darryl Williams.
Gillis said he anticipates re-signing restricted free agents Chris Tanev, Dale Weise and Jordan Schroeder and that he is not interested in giving one-time Vancouver Giant star Gilbert Brule a tryout, explaining that the Canucks already have players of Brule’s ilk on their roster. Additionally, he said he wouldn’t discuss his interest level in bringing back unrestricted free-agent defenceman Andrew Alberts.
Gillis also reported that Tanev (ankle) has been medically cleared but that winger David Booth, who tore ankle ligaments and suffered a fracture March 16 against Detroit, has not been medically cleared.
Chief Operating Officer Victor de Bonis told the 2,000 fans who attended Tuesday’s event that paying customers have not abandoned the team in any great numbers despite the last two early playoff exits. “Our renewal rate this year is over 95 per cent,” he said. “The passion hasn’t gone anywhere. We just need to make some changes.”
De Bonis also explained to one fan why the team charges full price for exhibition games. “What’s the best way to answer this?” he said a bit sheepishly. “We set the price based on the package. We look at the complement of games that you’re getting.”
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