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Luongo willing to waive no-trade clause

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Roberto Luongo is willing to waive his no-trade clause.

Whether the Canucks ask the veteran goaltender to, or whether they are able to deal the decade that remains on his 12-year, $64-million contract to a place he finds acceptable, remains to be seen. But as the Canucks try to solve the dilemma of having two No. 1 goalies after this season's emergence of Cory Schneider, the guy who wears No. 1 said he won't stand in their way.

"Yeah, of course, if they ask me to," Luongo said of waiving his no-trade while the team cleaned out the locker room two days after a surprising first-round playoff exit. "I don't want to be one of those guys that's going to stand in the way of anything. I always want to put the team ahead of me first. I don't want to be one of those selfish guys."

Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo
Goalie - VAN
RECORD: 0-2-0
GAA: 3.59 | SVP: 0.891
Luongo stressed nothing had been decided yet, but after watching Schneider start the last three of a five-game series loss to Los Angeles in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, he sounded like a goaltender preparing to move on after six seasons in Vancouver.

"I've always been about the team first, and obviously they got a guy here who is going to be a superstar in this League the next 10, 12, 15 years," Luongo said. "I loved being here the last six years, I think my career has really taken off, done some incredible things, and if I'm here in the future, then great, and if I'm not, that's good also."

Luongo, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist for the third time just last season after leading Vancouver to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, stressed it wasn't his decision. He met briefly with Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis, who earlier said he was open to keeping both goalies, and said they'd meet again in the coming weeks.

"It's a very unique circumstance we're in, where we've got an elite young guy who is probably going to dominate the League for many years," Luongo said. "So I'm not sure what I would do if I was GM. … It's going to be what's best for the team, and whatever scenario that is, I am OK with it. Whether that involves me being here or not is OK."

Luongo, who holds the franchise records for wins and shutouts, finished the season 31-14-8 with a 2.41 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. He was even better after another shaky start while again making changes to his game under goalie coach Roland Melanson, posting a .925 save percentage from November on that would rank No. 7 in the NHL -- just ahead of Nashville's Pekka Rinne -- during a full season.

But Schneider, in just his second year as the backup, was even better, finishing the season second in the NHL in save percentage (.937) and third in goals-against average (1.96).

"The emergence of Cory to be so outstanding a young goalie changed the landscape," Gillis said. "We're in middle of a changing landscape and we have to evaluate it."

It changed further in the playoffs. Luongo was the Canucks' best player in Game 1 against the Kings, but Schneider took over to start Game 3 and stopped 97 of 101 shots, losing a 1-0 shutout and 2-1 in overtime in the decisive Game 5.

"It wasn't easy," Luongo said of watching the final three games. "That goes without saying when you are a starter and a competitor and you want to help the team, that is not something that is easy to take. But at the same time, I didn't want to put myself ahead of the team. Cory was in a spot where he had earned it."

As much as Luongo's contract plays a role in the future -- he carries a $5.33-million salary cap hit throughout, but is owed more than $6.7 million for the next six seasons -- so does Schneider's status as an impending restricted free agent this summer.

The 26-year-old said all the right things about not controlling his own future and being willing to continue in a two-goalie system if that's what the team decides, stressing the strong friendship he has formed with Luongo. But Schneider, who was the 26th pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, also made it clear he feels he is ready to assume a bigger role.

"I feel I deserve a look and opportunity to play more than 30 games," he said. "How many more 30-game seasons can you play and still wonder if you are ready or not? I'm not saying someone should hand the reins over, but I at least deserve a look, at least get a chance to play some games in a row and take that mantle."

After being a patient, team-first guy the last two seasons, Schneider admitted that may mean thinking about his own future for a change.

"I haven't thought about what's best for me in a long time," he said. "I don't know if it's time to start doing that, but I'm not going to change my stance a whole lot. Things have to happen from both sides. It can't just be me pounding my fist demanding things. It has to be whatever they decided to do and that has to be in accordance with what I feel is good for me as well."

As for Luongo, whose 339 regular-season wins and 60 shutouts both rank top-20 all-time and second only to Martin Brodeur on the active list, Schneider had nothing but praise.

"Roberto is still a fantastic goalie in this League, I don't think people give him enough credit. He's still an elite goalie at this level. It's not as if he should be cast aside as somebody who can't get the job done anymore," Schneider said.

"I have a lot of respect for him as a friend and teammate and he supports me and always encourages me and helped me get to where I am. The dynamic between us doesn't change much, we're both proud guys, we're both competitors. But we both want to play, so it's tough for either one of us to sit out, especially Lou considering he's been one of the most dominant goalies the past decade in this League and he's still got plenty of good years left."

After Tuesday it appears Luongo may be resigned to spending them somewhere else.

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