TORONTO — Sorry, but we just can’t bring ourselves to pity poor Roberto Luongo, whose 12-year, $64-million deal has imprisoned him on a pretty good team, in the beautiful city of Vancouver.
Nor can we bring ourselves to outrage — maybe a little mockery, but not genuine outrage — over general manager Mike Gillis’ inability to move his prized goaler, considering the fact that in the 11 months since this trade quest began, roughly four months were lost to a work stoppage and the resulting CBA changed the economic landscape markedly.
In short, the contract might not be Luongo’s fault, but it surely is his problem.
And the fact Gillis can’t unload the damned thing?
Well, that actually is Gillis’ fault, AND his problem.
“I’d scrap it if I could right now,” Luongo said of his contract. “It sucks.”
While the rival Minnesota Wild beefed up by adding Sabres captain Jason Pominville on Deadline Day, the Canucks could not divest themselves of hockey’s most valuable backup goalie. In the eyes of some, that is inexcusable asset management on a team with an ever-closing window for success.
If the Canucks go out in Round 1 or 2 — and it’s hard to see them beating Minnesota to win the Northwest at this point — all fingers will point directly at a GM who failed to get the Luongo deal done. Even if some of them should point at the goalie with the all-too-small list of agreed-to trade destinations.
“We’ve had discussions with five teams over the past six months,” began Gillis, citing the lockout and a changing CBA as factors that worked against him. “Since we signed the contract there have been significant changes (in the hockey economy).
“At the time (the contract) was done it was very favourable for this organization (and) Roberto. Since, there have been a number of changes. It’s a fluid industry.”
The only thing that never changes, of course, is the Canucks goaltending situation. You do wonder, however, how long Luongo can paint on his happy face.
That constant flow of stories about he and Cory Schneider getting along like peanut butter and jam? They may slow to a drip for a while.
“I don’t think disappointed is the right word,” said Luongo of remaining a Canuck. “It’s been an emotional past year. I love it here. I love my teammates.
“My contract sucks. That’s what the problem is. Unfortunately it’s a big factor in trading me.”
In the end Gillis couldn’t even give Luongo to the Toronto Maple Leafs, reportedly offering Luongo for Ben Scrivens plus second- and third-round draft picks, and being rebuffed by Toronto GM Dave Nonis.
“I do feel obligated to trade Roberto, get him to a situation where he’s happy, and competing at a level where he’s accustomed to,” Gillis said. “Trying to balance (the needs of the team) is a difficult thing. Trying to put him in the best situation, trying to put the team in the best situation. Occasionally there is a conflict.”
It is amazing that a man can regret, in any fashion, the signing of a $64-million lifetime deal. But that’s where Luongo is today.
That entire episode is rueful: the ridiculous idea to give Luongo the captaincy; a contract of 12 years, when five or six would have been plenty; the anointing of Luongo as this franchise’s goalie in perpetuity.
Today, with Luongo stranded in a place he doesn’t want to be and the team seemingly unable to ship him out, it is simply folly.
“It’s a decision me and management made a few years ago when I signed it. We’re going to have to find a way to have a solution,” Luongo said.
So where to now, Roberto?
“I’m going to gather myself for the rest of the day and make sure that when I come to work (Thursday) I’m 100 percent dedicated to this team for the rest of the year. I would like nothing more than to win a Stanley Cup with this team, whether I’m the starter or the backup. I’ll give 100% to that.”
And his GM will give it 100 per cent to move his butt out of town.
That’s quite an arrangement.