July 25 2013 10:08AM
Roberto Luongo switched representation on Wednesday. What can we make of this?
Image via Wikimedia Commons.
There aren’t many (or any, really) members of the Vancouver media who have a better read on the state of the Canucks than Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy. Murphy offered his take yesterday on Luongo changing agents just days after meeting with Mike Gillis. As he wrote at the beginning of his post, “Why would a guy with nine years left on his contract fire his agent?”
Let’s try to figure it out, shall we? Read on for more.
What we know - Mike Gillis believes that his meeting with Luongo last week went well.
“It was fine, it was good,” Gillis said of the meeting. “It was fun. It was amicable. 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.
So, naturally, it makes perfect sense that Luongo announces he is changing agents a day after Gillis makes those comments, right?
Luongo’s new agents, Pat Brisson and JP Barry, are two heavy hitters in the hockey world. Brisson represents a number of high-profile players, including Sidney Crosby. JP Barry is the agent for the Sedin twins and Evgeni Malkin (among other players), and Vancouver fans may remember him particularly for his starring role as Mats Sundin’s agent and part-time TEAM 1040 radio show host during Sundin’s “negotiations” with the Canucks back in 2008 (also known as the four month fishing trip).
Since Luongo’s previous agent, Gilles Lupien, negotiated his 12-year contract, Lupien will continue to collect his percentage of Luongo’s paycheque. So why would Brisson and Barry take him on as a client? Pro bono work? Seems unlikely.
As Murphy alluded to, perhaps Luongo and Brisson/Barry have worked out an arrangement where the agents would receive a fee if and when they are able to facilitate a trade out of Vancouver? This could very well be possible, but I’m not sure what they would be able to do in terms of finding a willing trading partner. Teams in the NHL are simply unwilling to take on Luongo’s contract, as we've all come to find out. Perhaps after 30 or 40 games of Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback, Steve Yzerman may change his tune.
Or is this move Luongo’s way of punishing his former agent for mishandling the trade negotiations over the past year or two? That is a storyline that isn’t getting enough traction. Perhaps Luongo feels that it is time to end his professional relationship with an agent who he made a lot of money for and who was unable to grant his wishes.
Does Barry want to have more leverage over Mike Gillis? The two were allies in the agent world back when Gillis used to represent players, and the fact that they have a good relationship could be seen as a silver lining in the storm cloud that is the Luongo situation. Barry and Gillis will be sitting down soon to talk about the future of Daniel and Henrik, and Barry now has the Luongo card to play, as well. What that card is, we don’t exactly know.
I don’t see Luongo holding out. Piggybacking off of Murphy’s thoughts, Luongo loves his teammates and is a really, really proud guy (which we have seen through the years in several emotional interactions with the media). But, most of all, the carrot that is the Sochi Olympics is dangled right in front of him. I don’t think holding out would provide him the best opportunity to play himself onto that team.
Something along the way fell apart between Luongo and Gillis. One would think that Gillis would have a significant advantage over other NHL general managers with his extensive experience as a player agent. Agents learn how players tick. They help them with their finances and personal lives. They become friends and confidants. Gillis seemed to leverage this experience during his first few years with the Canucks, negotiating several hometown discounts with important players.
However, he didn’t exactly provide clear communication to Luongo along the way. You could argue that his job isn’t to keep his highly-paid players happy. But even if there was a 1% chance of this situation ending with a Cory Schneider trade (which didn’t seem plausible as recent as two months ago), Luongo had to be kept at least somewhat in the loop.
Perhaps Gillis and Lupien weren’t on the same page. We know that Gillis and Luongo definitely weren’t (and still aren’t, perhaps). The comments below are from Kevin Woodley, who writes for NHL.com and has a good working relationship with Luongo.
Won't speculate on Luongo agent switch going public day after Canucks "all is good" spin but Gillis saying situation was always possible ...— Kevin Woodley (@KevinisInGoal) July 24, 2013
... is not how Luongo saw it, not after 2012 + certainly not after this season. He never saw coming back as option. Unlike Canucks, I asked.— Kevin Woodley (@KevinisInGoal) July 24, 2013
Gillis and Barry have a positive relationship, as I alluded to above. Perhaps these two men can mend the fence? But why would Luongo change agents just so he could have a better relationship with the team he seems to want no part of?
To summarize, we simply have no idea why Luongo changed agents. Perhaps he still wants out of Vancouver. Maybe he was angry with Lupien for not delivering him a deal.
This is just another turn in one of the most bizarre hockey stories in recent memory.
Previously from Jeff (@anguscertified):
- An Early Look at Opening Night: Defensemen and Forwards
- Does Jannik Hansen have Top-Six Ability?