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Luongo ready to return if Canucks can't trade him

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Roberto Luongo was back in Vancouver on Wednesday for a good time -- and a good cause -- but as the old Trooper song goes, no one expects him to be around for a long time.

Luongo admitted he never expected to be back in Vancouver representing the Canucks either, not after last season ended with him on the bench watching Cory Schneider start the final three games of a first-round Stanley Cup Playoff loss to the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings.

Luongo said a few days later he'd waive his no-trade clause, and after Schneider signed a three-year, $12 million contract extension in late June, the former No. 1 suggested in a radio interview it was "time to move on." But with training camp just around the corner, Luongo now sounds open to at least starting the season with the Canucks.

"Two months ago, after what had just happened and [Schneider] had just signed, I didn't really see myself being here," Luongo said before teeing off at the team's annual charity golf tournament -- his first comments locally since the end-of-season address. "But I realized once we got into August that was a possibility and I was OK with that."


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That's not to say Luongo necessarily wants to be back. And with 10 years left on a deal with a $5.33 million annual salary-cap hit, the Canucks can't keep both goalies long-term.

"I pretty much stand the same where I left off," Luongo said. "I said I would be willing to lift my no-trade clause if asked, and so far I haven't been asked, so I'm here."

The Canucks were the only team Luongo was willing to talk about Wednesday, refusing to go down the path of prospective trade partners despite telling the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that the Florida Panthers were a preferred destination just a week earlier. It was hardly a surprise given the 33-year-old still spends his summers there in a family home he built shortly before being traded from Florida to Vancouver six seasons ago. Luongo remains the Panthers' all-time leader in goalie games played (317), wins (108) and shutouts (26), but Wednesday would only talk Canucks, a team he also leads in all-time wins (224) and shutouts (33).

"I've never given a list of teams and as far as that side of the business I am going to leave it to [general manager Mike Gillis] to do his thing, and I don't really want to talk about any other teams right now," Luongo said. "I'm here and I think it's a bit disrespectful towards my teammates and the organization to be talking about other places."

As for becoming a distraction if the season starts with him on the Canucks, Luongo said his close friendship with Schneider and others wouldn't allow that to happen.

"I'm still playing in the NHL and I'm still playing with a bunch of guys I love and respect, so there's no reason for me to be frustrated," Luongo said. "I don't think there's any point to being like that. It's not good for anybody. If anything it just creates negativity around the team and around myself. Like I said before, it's not the worst thing in the world, I am comfortable here, it's been my home for six years, and it's not a big deal for me."

Returning, for however long, will be easier because of his friendship with Schneider, to whom he has talked several times this summer.

"He has always been 100 percent supportive of me and defended me a lot and I really respect that and appreciate that and it's only fair I do the same," Luongo said. "He's a really class guy with a tremendous amount of talent. We push each other and [I] don't see it being any different."

Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 31-14-8
GAA: 2.41 | SVP: 0.919
Luongo said he plans to take part in informal practices with teammates on Thursday and Friday in Vancouver, but told he could return to Florida on Monday. At that point, Gillis said, Luongo could not be traded until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place, adding that uncertainty wasn't helping the process but revealing there was interest in a goaltender who has always been a polarizing figure in Vancouver -- loved unconditionally by some as the franchise's best ever after leading the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final two summers ago, criticized by others after falling apart against the Boston Bruins during that series.

"We've had solid (trade) proposals, but they are not what we are trying to accomplish and we are going to go as far as we can to try and get what we want to accomplish out of this," Gillis said. "We're listening to every team that calls. You never know what the possibilities may be in terms of multiple teams being involved in one transaction."

So what do the Canucks want in return for a goaltender who ranks second all-time among active players with 339 wins and 60 shutouts, and has been voted a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender three times, including two seasons ago?

"I don't think you replace an all-star goalie and necessarily feel you have to be better, but you have to be different and that's what we're looking to try and do in this," Gillis said. "We need some help in certain areas. We need to get a little bit younger, we need to have opportunities moving forward that can help us, and that's what we're trying to do."

Gillis bristled at the suggestion that Luongo's contract, the possibility of a shrinking salary cap, or the Canucks' current goaltending glut make it a tough trade.

"We're one of the wealthiest teams in the League so we don't have fire sales," he said.

As for the possibility of Luongo using his no-trade clause to force a trade to one place -- which Luongo said wasn't the case -- Gillis said he's "entitled to try and be selective."

"But at the end of the day you're either going to play hockey or you're not going to play hockey," the GM added. "We're going to do our best to make sure Roberto is taken care of, whether here or somewhere else. We're going to look at his best interests, but also at ours."

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