Since the Vancouver Canucks season ended last April at the hands of the LA Kings, one of the top stories in all of hockey was : Where is Roberto Luongo going to get traded? It wasn’t a case of if, it was when and where. That was nine months ago, and the trade still hasn’t been done.
The Canucks had already signed Luongo’s backup, Cory Schneider, to a starter-worthy contract worth $12M over 3 years. Combined with Luongo’s $5.33M cap hit, that is almost $10M committed to goaltending.
Luongo is still a top 5 goalie in the league, and he was supposed to be out of town, replaced by Schneider. However, Gillis was asking too much for a player that they really don’t want to keep.
Now, with Luongo still breathing down his neck and looking on from the bench, Schneider has not lived up to expectations. In 4 starts, he has been pulled once and has a GAA of 3.13 and a SP of .897. Luongo has had three starts, sporting a solid 1.61 GAA and .938 SP with a shutout.
Now, is Schneider’s sub-par start due to the fact that he isn’t a good goalie? Not likely. Is it attributable to being the number 1 with an all-star goalie breathing down his neck? We will never know the answer.
All we can say is that with Luongo swaying public opinion his way after being a lightning rod of criticism for the early playoff exit, GM Mike Gillis might have missed his window of opportunity to deal one of his goalies and get something for him. If he were to trade Luongo now, and Schneider continues to struggle, the Canucks are sunk and Gillis probably loses his job. He can’t deal Schneider or he will have to admit he made an error.
By gambling that there was a bigger market for Luongo and holding out to get more in return from the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gillis has put himself between a rock and a hard place. Luongo’s stellar play hasn’t made it easier on him.