April 24, 2012
Luongo ready to move on from Canucks
By HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - Roberto Luongo may have faced the media for the final time Tuesday as a Vancouver Canuck.
The former team captain -- and, up to two weeks ago, the starting goaltender for the Presidents' Trophy winners -- stood before a throng of reporters and cameras, acknowledging he was ready to do what was best for the team, repeating that phrase at least six times.
Whether that means the 33-year-old, who has 10 years left in a 12-year contract, will be permanently replaced as the No. 1 goalie next season by a younger and more consistent Cory Schneider remains to be seen. But Luongo, pride and all, is open to being moved.
Asked if he would waive his no-trade clause, the franchise's career wins leader, with 224, didn't shy away.
"Of course, if they ask me to," Luongo said. "I don't want to be one of those guys who is going to stand in the way of anything. There haven't been any decisions made.
"I always want to put the team ahead of me first and I don't want to be one of those selfish guys."
To be fair, he hasn't been, especially of late.
In the opening round of the playoffs, the Canucks lost Games 1 and 2 to the Los Angeles Kings with Luongo in net, and coach Alain Vigneault switched to Schneider, 26. Luongo never voiced displeasure at the decision -- at least not publicly. He affirmed his support for his fellow netminder and stressed his willingness to be a team player.
"Cory earned it," Luongo said. "It is a very unique circumstance that we're in where we have an elite young guy who is up and coming, who is probably going to dominate the league for many years. It is a business and that's the way it goes."
Although Vancouver was eliminated in five games by the Kings, Schneider allowed only four goals in three games while posting a save percentage of .960, proved he was ready to be a full-time starter in the NHL. His chance may come sooner than later.
"Would I like to get at least an opportunity to be a starting goaltender? Sure, everyone would," said Schneider, who is set to become a restricted free agent. "I've at least earned the right to get a chance, and to get a look. Wherever that may be, I don't know. I'll think about that when it comes."
The former first-round pick said it was "way premature" to speculate if he would sign a long-term deal to succeed Luongo in Vancouver. That decision comes down to general manager Mike Gillis, who spoke highly of both goaltenders Tuesday.
"Either one of them gives us an opportunity to win every game we play," said Gillis, who met with both players later in the day.
"Roberto is a proven all-star, he has done everything you could do except win a Stanley Cup. We have every bit of confidence in him moving forward and I have every bit of confidence in Cory. He's a young up-and-coming goalie and he has great skill and a great work ethic. Having two guys like that on a team is not a bad situation."
Then again, it's not an ideal situation with two netminders who prefer to play a leading role.
For now, with this crease conundrum awaiting the Canucks during the off-season, Luongo seems to be reflecting on his time in Vancouver -- a telling sign, maybe.
"I loved being here the last six years and my career has really taken off," he said. "If I'm here in the future, then great. If I'm not, that's good also."