VANCOUVER — There never seems to be a dull moment when it comes to Roberto Luongo — is he staying? is he going? — and he’s done nothing to quell the interest with his twitter alter ego @Strombone1.
Luongo has shown the public a wicked sense of humour rarely seen in his post-practice and game scrums at Rogers Arena. This week he tweeted “if this keeps up I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to go on meds” in response to the new CBA ‘Luongo Rule’ and then the Brian Burke firing in Toronto.
On Thursday, when asked if he was flying to Vancouver, he tweeted a photo from far above a cloud bank and replied: “Is that good enough?”
After then touching down at YVR, a more subdued Luongo told Sportsnet he is not on edge about his situation.
“I’ve been around a long time and I’ve learned how to deal with these things a bit better,” said the 33-year-old netminder. “Definitely if this was earlier in my career, things would probably be different for me. I’m a bit more laid back, I would say, when it comes to a situation like this. I’m just happy to play hockey right now.”
So Luongo is back in Vancouver and plans to skate Friday at UBC with his Canuck teammates. Maybe it’s only for one day, maybe it’s for a week, maybe for a few weeks. One thing is certain: nothing can happen on the trade front until the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified by the players, which should happen Saturday morning.
In fact, teams are not even allowed to talk trade — officially, that is — until the ratification vote is complete. We have to believe this is the case because no one would bend the rules, would they?
Even the Canucks players were wondering Thursday where Bobby Lou might end up.
“Yeah, of course, I’m curious,” said Daniel Sedin. “He’s a teammate and a friend so, I mean, you’re going to follow that story for sure. You feel for the situation he’s in and, hopefully, everything works out fine. He has done a great job of dealing with these kind of things before and he’s going to do the same thing now.”
The prevailing wisdom is that Luongo will be dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs, especially with Dave Nonis the new GM in Leaf-land. Nonis has long admired Luongo and, of course, brought him to Vancouver in 2006. The Canucks are in desperate need of depth at centre, especially someone with an offensive touch, which is why Tyler Bozak (47 points in 73 games) has been so prominently mentioned for months.
It’s not likely to be a one-for-one deal, however, so look for other components to be involved, perhaps a Nazem Kadri and a backup goalie, either James Reimer or Ben Scrivens.
The Philadelphia Flyers are apparently interested as well despite the Wednesday denials of GM Paul Holmgren. Obviously Ilya Bryzgalov didn’t totally impress the Flyers last season and Philly has never been shy about seeking upgrades. Bryzgalov’s fat contract might be an issue but if the Flyers are indeed serious, the Canucks should be asking for a young centre in return, like a Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn.
Pie in the sky, perhaps, but there is no harm in asking, right?
Luongo said last summer that he wouldn’t mind being dealt back to the Florida Panthers, his team for five seasons before he became a Canuck. His wife is from South Florida and he makes his off-season home there so he wouldn’t even have to move a muscle, let alone an entire household, if he returned to the Panthers. But the Cats have a top goalie prospect in Jacob Markstrom and don’t have the deep pockets of either the Leafs or Flyers to absorb Luongo’s gigantic ticket that still has 10 years and $47.3 million remaining. (Note: teams are permitted under the new CBA to retain part of a player’s contract to help facilitate trades.) Prospect Nick Bjugstad, a 6-4 forward playing at the University of Minnesota, and veteran centre Stephen Weiss’s name have been floated, although that may be wishful thinking on the part of some Canuck diehards. A backup goalie, Scott Clemmensen or Jose Theodore, could be involved if this unlikely scenario actually unfolds.
The Edmonton Oilers? They have an abundance of young forwards that would interest any team but it’s difficult to see the Canucks (a) trading within their division and (b) Luongo waiving his no-trade clause to stay in the northwest at this stage of his career.
So the talk will continue for now. The action will come later.
“Roberto is going to deal with it as a professional like he always does,” said Alex Burrows. “We’re all hockey players and we know these kind of things happen to the best of them. If he has to go somewhere else, I wish him the best of luck. If he stays, I’ll be more than happy.”
A quick resolution would likely be a happier outcome, however.