VANCOUVER - You just knew there were going to be last-minute dramatics with Roberto Luongo.
As Wednesday's practice was winding down, the Vancouver Canucks goaltender was called off the ice by a media relations member and sneaked through a different passage to go upstairs to the war room.
But despite all the speculations and ensuing excitement, alas, Luongo remained a Canuck.
And after all the NHL trade deadline dust settled, and despite general manager Mike Gillis claiming afterwards, "we tried our hardest," Vancouver was left without a deal on a relatively quiet day around the league.
With about four or five teams speculated to be in talks for the Canucks goalie, a trade never materialized. And Luongo was straightforward in explaining why that was.
"My contract sucks," Luongo said in an interesting press conference. "That's what the problem is. It's a big factor in trading me and probably why I'm still here."
Soon after, in a Gillis presser, the GM claimed Luongo's comments were said "in a highly emotional state." But when it came down to it, the 33-year-old, who turns 34 kicked in for the 2010-11 season.
"I'd scrap it if I could right now," he said. "It's a hit on your pride that teams aren't willing to give up much and obviously that doesn't mean it's a knock on me but my situation with my contract. It's a tough spot to be in for myself, for the organization and for everyone involved.
"Obviously the time isn't now and we have to wait."
This season, the goaltender has started just 14 games, his last coming on March 18 as fellow netminder Cory Schneider has been riding a hot hand. Even so, Luongo has put together a solid 7-4-3 record with a .904 save percentage, a 2.44 goals against average and two shutouts. Amidst all the on-ice action, he's also had to answer time and time again questions about the situation off the ice with his future on the team. Whether or not it became a distraction for the Canucks, Luongo stressed he dealt with it well.
"I'm not disappointed in the way I've handled this situation ... and not create any negative energy around the team," he said. "It's been an emotional ride the last year. It's more the unknown that has gotten to me more than anything else. I'm proud to be a Vancouver Canuck, I love it here, I love my teammates, and there's nothing wrong with that.
"I've been pretty calm about the whole situation until about yesterday late evening. I started getting weird feelings about it, not that I had to go to the bathroom but just that I was getting nervous."
Luongo said he was never approached to waive his no-trade clause for a deal. But when he was pulled off the ice, plenty of questions went through his head.
"I thought something was possible but I wasn't sure if anything was going to happen or not," he said. "It was 10 minutes before the deadline so they wanted to make sure I was available in case of something and in case I needed to sign off on anything.
"It's nice to get past this point. I can really focus now on one thing and that's doing what I can do to help this team from here on in until the end of the season."
Gillis said the team was close a number of times to move their former captain and current backup goaltender.
"We thought we were confident in getting something done but it didn't come together," Gillis said, adding he won't discuss whether the two sides can re-negotiate his contract. "He has a no-trade clause which creates some complications like every player that has one. Roberto has been part of this process, we've tried our hardest ... and we're trying to accommodate him."
Gillis factored the higher number of buyers, the uncertainty of a lot of teams, and the shortened season as to why there were less trades this time around and why the Canucks did not make a move on deadline day. About 24 hours earlier, the Canucks picked up centre Derek Roy in a deal with the Dallas Stars, filling a need down the middle.
Injured centre Ryan Kesler (fractured foot) is expected to start skating Thursday, while winger Mason Raymond (shoulder) could return later in the week, as the team prepares to host the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena on Thursday.
Gillis also added the team was interested in bringing back forward Raffi Torres, who was traded from the Phoenix Coyotes to the San Jose Sharks, but it didn't work out.
On his part, Schneider didn't realize Luongo was off the ice at practice until the Canucks were stretching, but said he's happy to have his good friend and fellow netminder still on the team.
"You never want to see a teammate go," said Schneider, who is expected to start against the Oilers Thursday. "I'm happy to still be his teammate and glad he's still here."
As for his story now, Luongo summed it up perfectly, "TBD. To be determined. At the end of the day, maybe this was the best possible outcome for me for this year."