VANCOUVER – Roberto Luongo’s contract won’t stop him from being traded, says Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis.
Gillis said Sunday he has not talked to any teams about the possibility of Vancouver retaining financial responsibility for part of the veteran goaltender’s contract after he has been dealt. Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement between NHL owners and players, a team that trades a player away can still pay a portion of his salary.
Luongo has 10 years remaining on a 12-year, US$64-million contract. Some observers view the hefty long-term deal as an impediment. But Gillis said he sees no reason why the Canucks would have to discuss keeping part of Luongo’s salary.
“He’s an all-star goaltender,” said Gillis. “I don’t feel compelled or see any reason why we would go down that path with a player of his calibre.”
Cory Schneider displaced Luongo as Vancouver’s starter in last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs, when the Canucks were eliminated in the first round by the Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings. Luongo has said he will waive his no-trade clause if asked, but is also willing to wait as long as necessary for a deal to be completed.
Gillis said he is not concerned “one bit” about Luongo’s large contract preventing a deal from getting done.
Luongo ($5.3 million) and Schneider ($4 million) will account for $9.3 million worth of Vancouver’s salary cap this season. The $70.2-million cap is slated to be slashed to $64.3 million next season, but Gillis said he does not feel compelled to deal Luongo for financial reasons or because the club has two goaltenders capable of starting.
“I don’t feel any pressure here to trade Roberto for any other reason than to improve this hockey team,” said Gillis. “I certainly don’t believe you give away all-star players because of some idea that you’re under pressure because it’s an untenable situation. He’s too good a player for that. We can work with him.
“I know we can. We’ve done it in the past year.”
Luongo is a two-time NHL second-team all-star. He has appeared in the NHL all-star game three times and shared the Williams Jennings Trophy as part of the league’s best goaltending duo with Schneider.
“There’s always been interest, and there’s been a lot more interest than people wanted to recognize because (of) the presumption that the contract was onerous or difficult,” said Gillis. “(The difficulty of the contract) has never been mentioned to me by one team.
“I know some people like to make a big deal of that, but it’s a very friendly contract for a lot of reasons. One of the reasons is the new collective agreement. You can’t sign these types of (front-loaded) contracts (anymore) because they are favourable. So the contract’s not an issue.”
The GM said the Canucks are looking for players who can fill specific positions now and in the future. Vancouver is in need to a second-line centre to replace Ryan Kesler, who is recuperating from surgery on his shoulder and wrist. Gillis filled a hole on defence Sunday by signing unrestricted free agent Cam Barker, 26, to a one-year deal.
If Luongo is dealt, Vancouver will also need a backup goaltender with NHL experience. Schneider is the only other netminder in the organization who has played in the league.
Top prospect Eddie Lack is expected to spend all of this season in the minors. He has been sidelined since late November with a groin injury.
Gillis said some trade talks on Luongo have involved the possibility of the Canucks receiving a goalie in return. However, other scenarios have not involved a goaltender destined for Vancouver.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been rumoured as the team most likely to obtain Luongo.