Luongo tells the emperor he’s naked “My Contract Sucks”

Three-hundred fifty-two days ago it was announced that Cory Schneider would get the start in game three of Vancouver’s Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Los Angeles Kings. Schneider would dazzle, though the Canucks would lose anyway by a score of one to nothing. It appeared then that the end of the Roberto Luongo era in Vancouver was nigh, I mean, it just had to be.

Three-hundred and fifty-two days later and the Roberto Luongo era has fitfully, inexorably stretched on. It will continue until the summer at the earliest.

This has little to do with Roberto Luongo’s performance and everything to do with the deal he signed a few years back. "My contract sucks" an emotional and forthright Luongo told the media on Wednesday afternoon, "I’d scrap it now if I could."

Read past the jump.

Though Luongo is tied to a life-time deal that other teams see as a liability, he remains an elite goaltender and there should be no doubt about that. So how much of a liability is his contract?

Well Steve Mason, easily the worst NHL netminder of the last four years, fetched a replacement level goaltender and a third-round pick in a trade on Thursday. Unproven young netminder Matt Hackett with the non-existent big league resume and NHL bloodlines – a goaltender who at one point lost his AHL job this season – was a centrepiece of the Jason Pominville trade. Meanwhile Ottawa chuckled to themselves as they turned less than 20 good games from Ben Bishop into a young top-six forward and a pick.

The odds that any of Steve Mason, Ben Bishop and Matt Hackett turn into what Luongo still is today are longer than Luongo’s deal. "Unfortunately [my contract] is a big factor in trading me and it’s probably why I’m still here," Luongo reasoned, hitting the nail squarely on the head even as his General Manager scrambled to try and put that genie back in the bottle.

The truth is that Mike Gillis, who has surely done more good than bad during his Vancouver tenure, has lost the plot on the Luongo trade front. He probably lost it a while ago, arguably when he decided to keep Cory Schneider in favour of the elite goalie on an immovable contract in the first place. As Gillis and his goaltender contradicted each other in their respective trade deadline press conference’s on Thursday afternoon, it became undeniable, what was a saga is now a circus.

Asked about whether or not he was ever asked to waive his no trade clause, Roberto Luongo denied it: "I was never approached with a trade somewhere else and I said no." Elaborating on this point he insisted that "nothing ever really materialized to the point where I had to make a decision about whether to waive or not." Mike Gillis’ take:

Mike Gillis also referred to Luongo’s no-trade clause as a complication. So this is a difficult situation that could get even tougher for everyone involved by the sounds of it.

Back to Luongo who on separate occassions during his press conference rejected the terms "disappointed" and "frustrated" when describing his feelings about staying put in Vancouver, visible evidence to the contrary. Instead he offered a serene rationalization: ""Obviously the time wasn’t now."

Luongo’s dead right about that too. The time wasn’t now – it was nine months ago at the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh. Or before the season started in January.

Instead of a resolution to this distracting situation, a situation which sees the Canucks allocating 9.33 million in cap space to two players who cannot be on the ice at the same time, Luongo’s future – and the team’s for that matter – remain murky. Its certainly not a comfortable situation for Vancouver’s star backup who said of dealing with the uncertainty that, "I’m human and sometimes it gets to you."

What’s clear now is that the Canucks aren’t going to get any useful assets in a Luongo trade this summer. That ship has long since sailed. In the meantime, Luongo remaining in Vancouver is rancid milk remaining in the sun. And it’s only going to smell worse going forward. Mike Gillis’ leverage will decrease like the salary cap does this summer too, making the need to move Luongo even more urgent.

For now Luongo’s looking forward, albeit with a heavy heart: "I’m going to gather myself for the rest of the day and make sure when I come to work tomorrow that I’m 100% dedicated to the team, no matter what the capacity. I’d like nothing better than to win the Stanley Cup this year."

But this is a proud guy, and a hyper-competitive athlete. An Olympic gold medal winner and the second best goaltender in the NHL in terms of being able to produce an elite save-percentage year after year. "It’s honestly," Luongo began before stopping to gather himself, "a hit on your pride that teams aren’t willing to give up much." It will also, presumably, be a hit on his pride when he spends the majority of the balance of this season and the first game of the coming playoffs sitting on the bench.

    • I don’t fully agree with this. I think their biggest process mistake was having Luongo talk to the media so soon after the deadline. I’m okay with them having taken the gamble that they did.

      Furthermore, I’m sure that their knowledge of luongo as the professional he is probably fuelled the thinking behind making their bet. If he was a dramabomb in the dressing room, I’m sure he would have been gone ages ago.

      If we’re looking at process, I don’t think he screwed this up. It might not be the most respectful set of actions and it might have caused a lot of unnecessary stress in the short and long-term, but in the end he just lost a bet. He’s been losing a lot of those recently, though >:(

  • Eieiei, this doesn’t look good…

    Somehow puts a big damper on my upbeat mood after the Derek Roy trade yesterday!

    All in all, I do miss a Malhotra-esque Checking Center, but Roy is a real nice pickup.

    BTW: Nice speed these days on the posts, Mr. Drance! Big thumbs up!

    • khlhfs

      It actually would have been. According to capgeek the canucks have 2.2 million in cap space available to them next season. If you assume they will buy out ballard that number bumps up to 6.4 million. After they buyout Ballard they will have 13 players signed which means they will need to sign 10 in order to fill out a 23 man roster. They badly need to get rid of Luongo’s contract and every GM in the league knows it. That’s basically the whole reason Gillis isn’t getting any decent offers for him and guess what his leverage isn’t growing as the team approaches July first. I would say at this point a Luongo buyout is a firm possibility.

        • khlhfs

          Dreger tweeted that all the Canucks wanted in return was Scrivens and a pick(s) which I would presume are in the later rounds. That’s a very diminutive return. I would say, given that information, that teams are actually not willing to trade for him as you think. At least not without sending some contract back towards the Canucks. Which, as I pointed out in a previous post isn’t feasible for the Canucks given the cap crunch they are about to face next season. I maintain that buying Luongo out at seasons end will actually be one of their more likely options.

          Look at it this way, at least you won’t have to worry about the future cap penalty that you would have incurred had he retired before this contract was over.

  • Mantastic

    hate to say i told you so… but who am i kidding? i told you so! his contract is horrible and that he wouldn’t be able to be moved, i’ve been telling you that for years but you guys defended it to no end, now look what’s happened?

  • khlhfs

    The logic of Luongo’s contract is that they needed to trade Scneider – the logical time would have been last year’s trade deadline or last summer. OH well – that didn’t work out, so now they are in uncharted territory. But maybe there is something in Luongo’s future in Vancouver to be played out. His performace in the cup final was unprecedented – although not in a good way – great at home, awful in the road games, the emotional comments after game 5 that got twisted, etc. Maybe somehow he is going to lead this team to some great heights again. Loved his comments about the contract.

    • khlhfs

      This may be the most accurate thing written. Karma as I understand it, is about relationships – we have karma with other people to work out in this life. So Gillis and Lu as the prime architects of this have to look each other in the eye, and live with this, at least until the summer. And maybe Lu and the city of Vancouver have something to work out as well. It is funny how things change. Two years ago – june 2011 specifically – Tim Thomas was on top, everyone’s favourite (some in the Toronto media just loved him), while Lu attracted a lot of contempt – too emotional, etc. Well, now with Thomas off in his bomb shelter in Colorado, I hope the national media get a better picture of Lu, especially after that great presser today.

  • BrudnySeaby

    I’ve always been a Lou supporter. After it seemed inevitable that Cory had taken the reins, i came to terms with the end of the Luongo era.

    However, as this drags on, I return to my original sentiment:

    Why not keep Lou, still an elite goalie, and trade Schneider, whose skills and contract would bring a higher return?

    I’m not arguing that Cory doesn’t have a longer shelf-life. He’s younger with much less wear and tear. But is the team better with Cory and whatever meagre return Luongo brings? Or with Lou with a the greater return from Cory?

    We’ll see what happens….but count me firmly in team Lou!

  • khlhfs

    In the final 4 years of his contract won’t there still be teams who would take his contract just to reach the salary cap floor like the Islanders this season? If that happens is his contract still bad? Is the lower cap hit for an elite goaltender not going to look good when the cap goes down?

    I’m assuming he feels a bit like Gaborik pre-trade. As much as it makes sense for him to stay (and Schneider to go), I can’t see it.

    What is wrong with the leafs? No to Scrivens and two 2nd round ricks? I really hope their goaltending screws them over in the playoffs. Reimer’s a good starter, but I don’t think he has the ability to get hot and carry an average team through the playoffs.

    • khlhfs

      To Van – you wrote this: What is wrong with the leafs? No to Scrivens and two 2nd round ricks? I really hope their goaltending screws them over in the playoffs. Reimer’s a good starter, but I don’t think he has the ability to get hot and carry an average team through the playoffs.

      What’s wrong is that they would have been barbecued by fans and the press here in TO. This may blow up on the Leafs if he falters in the post season – in which case they may well make that deal over the summer. Lu and the Canucks are treated with a lot of contempt here since the cup final. Its unfair, but so are a lot of things.