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Luongo laments fact contract likely prevented trade

by Kevin Woodley /

VANCOUVER -- An emotional Roberto Luongo made it clear he wasn't upset to still be a member of the Vancouver Canucks after the NHL Trade Deadline passed Wednesday.

The reason he hasn't been traded yet is another matter.

"My contract sucks," Luongo said bluntly of a 12-year, $64 million deal that still has nine seasons remaining after this one. "That's what the problem is, and unfortunately it's a big factor in trading me and it's probably why I am still here."

Asked if he'd trade all those millions for the chance to be a starter again somewhere else, Luongo barely hesitated.

"I'd scrap it if I could right now," he said.

Because he can't, Luongo will instead have to scrap a season in his prime, sitting on the bench waiting for a trade that became necessary last spring, when Cory Schneider supplanted him as the Canucks' No. 1 goaltender three games into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Luongo, who has one relief appearance while watching Schneider start the past eight games, thought he might have been traded when he was pulled off the ice early Wednesday. But it turned out the Canucks just wanted him available to sign off on his no-trade clause in case a late deal happened. It didn't, and Luongo admitted that wasn't easy.

"I don't think disappointment is the right word," Luongo said, his voice cracking at times. "It's been an emotional ride the last year. I think it's more the unknown that's gotten to me more than anything else. I am proud to be a Vancouver Canuck, I love it here, I love my teammates, there's nothing wrong with that. It's just a matter of the unknown and what the future holds is something that you try not to think about, but I'm human and sometimes it gets to you."

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis tried to downplay the role the contract played in his inability to fulfill a trade request made almost 11 months ago. He said he has talked to five teams about Luongo and that they were close to a deadline deal.

"We've been close a number of times," Gillis said. "Thought we were confident in getting something done, but it didn't come together."

Various reports of serious talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the final hour before the deadline included indications the contract was a sticking point. Gillis disputed that, but with Luongo turning 34 on Thursday it's hard to see how trading him gets any easier this summer.

"I still don't think it's as hard as people make it out," Gillis said. "Discussions we had surrounded players, draft picks, him, places he might go -- those were bigger hurdles than anything about a contract."

Whatever the reason, it hasn't been easy on Luongo, who is among the active NHL leaders with 346 wins and 62 shutouts in 743 regular-season games but has played fewer than half this season's games.

"It's more honestly a hit on your pride [that] teams are not willing to give up much," Luongo said. "And obviously that doesn't necessarily mean it's a knock on me, but more my situation with my contract."

That situation will go on at least another couple of months, more than a year after Luongo suggested it was time to move on. He's dealt well with the uncertainty that followed but admitted it got to him lately.

"It's weird, I have been pretty calm about the whole situation until for some reason yesterday," he said. "I started getting weird feelings in my stomach -- not that I had to go to the bathroom -- but I was getting nervous, and it was the first time I had that type of feeling in my gut. … Now that it's over I can really focus on hockey."

Luongo, who is 7-4-3 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 16 appearances this season, vowed he would not be a distraction.

"I am going to gather myself the rest of the day and make sure when I come to work tomorrow I am 100 percent dedicated to this team the rest of the year, no matter what that capacity is," he said.

Schneider said because of their friendship, he believes that is possible.

"He probably has a lot of reasons to do whatever he wants to, but I think knowing him and seeing how he's handled all of this, he's going to be a good teammate and work hard and try to contribute," Schneider said. "He's a professional a guy that has dealt with all sorts of stuff throughout this career, and he's persevered through all of it."

Schneider also knows how hard it is for Luongo to spend a full season as backup.

The roles were reversed for two seasons before Schneider, 27, finally broke through to earn the starting job. After a couple of early stumbles this year, Schneider is 12-7-3 and among the NHL's leaders with a .922 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average. He is enjoying his new role, even if it's difficult to see Luongo in his.

"He's still a very, very good goalie with a lot of good years left, and personally you'd love to see the guy play, see him succeed and do what he loves doing," Schneider said. "I know this can't be easy, but we'll find a way to work through it."

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