VANCOUVER – Roberto Luongo has tipped his hand.
The Canucks all-star goaltender discussed the possibility of leaving Vancouver during a radio interview on Friday, especially the spectre of moving to the rival Chicago Blackhawks.
Luongo was originally scheduled to be on Vancouver’s 99.3 the Fox to speak about his participation in the World Series of Poker.
However, the discussion shifted to hockey and where he might play next season since the Canucks signed backup goalie Cory Schneider to a three-year deal worth US$12 million on June 28.
“I think it’s really time to move on,” said Luongo after being asked if he could insist on staying in Vancouver. “I don’t think either one of us…either I demanded a trade or (Canucks general manager Mike Gillis) suggested a trade.
“It was a mutual understanding that it was time for Cory to take over.”
The Canucks acquired Luongo in a trade with the Florida Panthers in 2006. He has 339 career wins in the NHL with 60 shutouts, a 2.52 goals-against average and a .919 saves percentage.
Since arriving in British Columbia, Luongo has led Vancouver to the playoffs five times. The Canucks have also won the President’s Trophy for the league’s best regular season record the past two years.
He has 32 wins in 61 playoff appearances with a 2.53 GAA and a .916 saves percentage.
When host Jeff O’Neil asked if there was “any chance in Hell” he’d play for Vancouver this fall, Luongo stayed ambivalent.
“I would never say never. You never know,” said the 33-year-old Montreal native. “But I think we all know what’s going on. We’ve all seen what’s developed. At the end of the day, I think it’s time to move on. And I’m OK with that. I had a great six years in Vancouver. It’s a really wonderful city. I really enjoyed my time there.
“Unfortunately, I was not able to bring a Stanley Cup there. Probably my biggest regret. But it’ll be remembered for six great years.”
Although Luongo had a sterling reputation during the regular season, he sometimes struggled in the playoffs. Particularly disappointing was the Canucks’ first-round exit this season to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.
Vancouver was the top seed in the Western Conference, with the eventual Stanley Cup champion Kings the No. 8 seed. Schneider replaced Luongo as the Canucks starting goaltender after Game 3.
Luongo was asked Friday about how he learned that Schneider was being signed to the lucrative contract.
“Nobody called me, but I think that was to be expected. We’ve all seen what he’s done in Vancouver the last couple of years,” said Luongo. “He’s a tremendous talent. The main thing that I like about him is that he’s a got a great head on his shoulders.
“He’s a player that’s going to be able to handle the job and handle the market with that pressure. He’s going to be a star in this league, there’s no question about that, and he’s going to probably win a few Vezinas.”
Schneider has 38 regular season wins with three shutouts, a 1.96 GAA and a .937 save percentage. He has a single win in eight playoff appearances with a 1.91 GAA and a .940 save percentage.
Ironically, Chicago is considered one of several possible trade destinations for Luongo. The Blackhawks have been a thorn in the Canucks’ side in several post-seasons, eliminating Vancouver from the playoffs in 2009 and 2010.
Underdog Chicago also pushed the Canucks to seven games in 2011, although Vancouver advanced only to lose to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup final.
“That’s a good question,” said Luongo on whether he’d accept playing for the Blackhawks. “I think there’s a lot of cities that are great to play in, and Chicago’s definitely one of them. But you have to realize that it works both ways. There’s not only me involved in this decision.
“It’s also a question if the Blackhawks would be interested, if the team would be interested in trading me there and if I wanted to go there.”
Luongo was in good spirits throughout the interview—his first since the Canucks were eliminated by the Kings. He even joked about the possibility of hearing the Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger,” Chicago’s anthem for goals and wins, on a regular basis.
“I like that song. It’s catchy,” said Luongo. “I heard it seven times in one game,” referring to the Blackhawks’ key 7-2 victory in Game 4 of the 2011 playoffs.
Other teams said to be interested in Luongo are Florida, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the interview, Luongo compared Vancouver to Sunrise, Fla., the home of the Panthers, where he played for four seasons.
“I think playing in a hockey market (like Vancouver) is great. My preference for sure,” said Luongo. “Sometimes, playing in a place like Florida, the anonymity is nice. To go somewhere, maybe have a dinner with your family and able to relax and stuff.
“When you’re on the ice, you want to be playing in a building that’s rocking. That’s sold out. The fans are passionate about their team. That’s what you want as a hockey player.”