Vancouver Canucks’ Roberto Luongo has ‘no reason to be frustrated’ with team, will remain patient for trade (with video)
Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo speaks to reporters at the Jake Milford Charity Invitational on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 at Northview Golf Course in Surrey.
Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG
METRO VANCOUVER — As the summit of hubris and greed began Wednesday in New York, one of the most divisive players in Vancouver Canuck history suddenly looked also like one of the most generous.
Never thought we'd say this but: Why can't people be more like Roberto Luongo?
If his willingness to accommodate, to suppress ego in favour of rationality and good intentions, could somehow infect the National Hockey League labour crisis, there would be more hope for hockey this fall.
Perhaps it's easy to be magnanimous with 10 years remaining on a $64-million contract, but Luongo's small act of kindness looked much bigger against the backdrop of reckless selfishness that threatens to scuttle the season.
Deposed of his job as the Canucks' starting goaltender – Luongo suffered this indignity during a quiet time of the year called the Stanley Cup playoffs – and with no future in Vancouver as he awaits a trade, Luongo travelled diagonally across the continent to support the team's charity golf tournament Wednesday in Surrey and skate a couple of times with teammates ahead of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's arbitrary Saturday deadline for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
And in the unlikely event there is a training camp and Canuck general manager Mike Gillis is willing to go with a $5.33-million backup, Luongo said he'll report to the team for whatever role remains.
He seems even better now than when he played.
“I have a lot of good friends on the team, even on the staff and coaching staff,” Luongo told reporters at Northview Golf Club in Surrey. “It makes it a lot easier to be here. That's why I'm here today. I didn't really hesitate on deciding whether I should come or not.
“There's no animosity whatsoever with Mike or the organization. We've been treated really well since the first day. Sometimes these things take longer than others. I'm still playing in the NHL. I'm still playing with a bunch of guys that I love and respect. There's no reason for me to be frustrated.”
So often perceived as a diva, the superstar who chose his goaltending coach and set his own schedule, Luongo said he is determined not to become a distraction.
He will fail at that.
Starting that warm April day in Los Angeles when Canuck coach Alain Vigneault chose Cory Schneider over Luongo, Vancouver's goaltending is a story that will distract as long as both players are here. The drama was further fuelled in June when Gillis re-signed Schneider to a three-year, $12-million contract that validates his status as the Canucks' new starter.
No matter what Gillis says publicly – and he argued again Wednesday that it's possible to keep both goalies and $9.33 million of salary-cap space crammed into the crease – he knows the situation is untenable long-term.
But CBA uncertainty has been a drag on trade discussions. And even when labour Armageddon was merely lurking on the horizon instead of running invited through the front door, teams were unwilling to offer the Canucks prime assets for the 33-year-old because they figured they were doing Gillis a favour by accepting Luongo's huge contract.
The Canucks have a different view.
“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're going to be completely supportive in this matter.
“We've had solid proposals. They're solid, but they're not what we're trying to accomplish. We're going to go as far as we can to try to get what we can accomplish out of this.”
And if that means two No. 1 goalies, a bearded lady and the Elephant Man in the dressing room, so be it.
“They're both highly respected players on our team,” Gillis said of Luongo and Schneider. “I don't anticipate it being unsettling unless you guys make it unsettling. It won't be internally for us.
“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 with this situation. But I know it will be a story every day.”
Gillis said he is optimistic about CBA negotiations, which is only slightly more believable than Luongo as a backup.
The general manager admitted a trade was “unlikely” before the Saturday CBA deadline, although he may yet re-sign Alex Burrows and/or Alex Edler to extensions before the contract landscape is permanently altered.
Luongo, who stated last week that he wants to return to the Florida Panthers and play near his adopted home, insisted he'll consider any trade proposal Gillis brings. Luongo's no-trade clause gives him clout, but not enough to restrict Gillis to one trading partner because the Canucks could always place him on waivers and see how he likes living in Edmonton or Columbus.
Luongo indicated he's willing to work with Gillis on a trade.
“Two months ago after what had happened and Schneids had just signed, I didn't really see myself being here for training camp,” Luongo said. “I realized once we got into August that that was a possibility and I was OK with that.
“There's been some ups and downs (waiting for a trade). Some moments have been more stressful and other times you kind of forget about it a little bit. 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 was brilliant on Wednesday in what may have been his final appearance."
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