Roberto Luongo is reporting to Vancouver Canucks training camp motivated to re-establish himself "as one of the top goalies in the League." He is also returning to one of the NHL's biggest soap operas.
In his first interview since the Canucks shocked the hockey world, and both of their goalies, seven weeks earlier by trading Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils at the 2013 NHL Draft, Luongo ensured the drama would continue by sounding uncertain about his future with a team he expected to trade him for more than a year.
He told TSN's James Duthie during the two-part interview "he might have cried" when he didn't get dealt at the trade deadline, "blacked out" when told Schneider was being traded instead, and seriously investigated having the final nine seasons and $40.57 million of his 12-year, $64 million contract voided.
"I explored every possibility, and that was definitely one of them," Luongo said in part one of the interview shown Friday night on TSN's "SportsCentre." "At that point there's different logistics into something like that and it's very complicated, but definitely it was something that I was looking at and ready to do if the opportunity came up."
Asked later if he still wanted to be traded, Luongo didn't really answer.
"I don't have a crystal ball," he replied. "I don't know what's going to happen down the road, but wherever I am, I'm going to be 100 percent committed to that place. So right now I'm in Vancouver and I'm 100 percent committed to that."
It's a question that will continue to come up. Luongo ensured that with his candor, refusing to play along with the rosier picture painted by Canucks general manager Mike Gillis. That version, retold most recently at a season ticket holder's meeting in late July, includes the insistence that keeping Luongo was always a possibility.
If so, it was news to the goaltender, who told NHL.com after last season ended that proverbial ship had sailed. Given the emotions and history involved, Luongo wondered why no one from the organization bothered to check with him before dispatching owner Francesco Aquilini to his Florida house three picks into the draft, six before the Schneider trade was announced.
"He showed up about three or four picks into the draft, so he sits on my couch and he asks me to turn the TV off, so I was like, 'OK,' because I was watching the draft," Luongo told TSN. "So I turned it off and we started talking and all of a sudden he tells me that [Schneider] has been traded. So as he's telling me this, my phone starts blowing up at the same time. It was like perfect timing. So I was kind of floored, to be honest with you. I mean out of all the situations that I envisioned that could possibly be happening to me, that wasn't one of them."
Luongo, who told NHL.com the day before the trade he had heard "not a word" from the Canucks, told TSN he "wasn't angry" when Aquilini broke the news.
"I was just shocked mostly," Luongo told Duthie. "I was just trying to figure out the reasons why a decision like that would be made, especially without consulting me. I mean, that's a pretty big move, I thought, to make without having any input from the guy you're going to put your trust in."
There are other questions Luongo has yet to answer, including why he split with longtime agent Gilles Lupien and, despite having a contract for the next nine seasons, signed on with powerhouse agents Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry. The move came to light one day after Gillis insisted everything was fine at the season-ticket event. Luongo, who told TSN "there was never a trade on the table that I turned down," also has yet to explain why he wanted out of Vancouver badly enough to consider walking away from more than $40 million.
"I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know what's going to happen down the road, but wherever I am, I'm going to be 100 percent committed to that place. So right now I'm in Vancouver and I'm 100 percent committed to that."
-- Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo
It certainly wasn't easy for him to divorce himself mentally from the Canucks in the first place, a process that started with Schneider taking over the No. 1 job two games into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. A few weeks later, Luongo was melancholy when he met with NHL.com and talked about packing up an apartment his oldest daughter had spent most of her life in, and leaving a city where he enjoyed so many good moments, including winning Olympic gold in 2010. But he said then "it was time to move on," and it became a big story when he repeated those words in a radio interview months later. Now, after preparing to do that for more than a year, Luongo has to wrap his head around staying instead.
Neither process has been easy on the 34-year-old, who responded to a question from Duthie about sounding like he was in rehab by saying, "I might need some."
"Things have happened over the last little while, that, you know I had come to the conclusion that I had moved on," Luongo told TSN, "Moved on from Vancouver and I was ready to start a fresh, new chapter of my career somewhere else."
Instead he will continue with the Canucks. So will the drama that surrounds their messy relationship, one Luongo compared to a divorce.
"That's what it felt like and I accepted it and I was fine with it and I had moved on personally," he said. "The only problem is she didn't, and she wanted me back."
More accurately, the Canucks were forced to take him back when they couldn't trade his contract.
For better or worse, the marriage is still on. So is the soap opera that surrounds it.