By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
When the Vancouver Canucks proceeded to do nothing on trade deadline day after Assistant GM Laurence Gilman stated that they were “Not done improving this team,” they were “All in,” and “Looking to make another move” after acquiring second-line centre Derek Roy from Dallas the day before, a few eyebrows were raised. The Canucks not only failed to acquire another forward and/or defensemen, but more importantly fell short at dumping goaltender Roberto Luongo and his monstrous 12-year $64-million contract.
In a press conference after the noon deadline passed, an emotional Luongo stated, “My contract sucks” and added, “I’d scrap it if I could right now.” It’s evident that the 34-year-old goalie wants a fresh start with a new team, but with the current situation that he’s in and the nine years left on his contract no team is willing to take him on—at least with the high asking price that GM Mike Gillis wants. The Toronto Maple Leafs were the best bet for the goaltender, however neither Gillis nor Leafs GM Dave Nonis could settle on a deal. Nonis wasn’t willing to give up a player that could make an immediate impact and Gillis wasn’t willing to give up Luongo for mere draft picks and prospects in the minors.
Thinking about it makes sense, given the fact that losing Luongo at the trade deadline would not benefit the team immediately for a playoff push. The only pieces on the table for a trade coming Vancouver’s way would have been potential future players for upcoming seasons. Without any immediate impact in exchange for Luongo, it makes sense to keep him at least until the summer. If starting goalie Cory Schneider goes down with an injury or doesn’t perform up to par come the post-season, there’s insurance with Luongo to step in. And when the playoffs are over and done with, the Canucks can deal with the Luongo conundrum and see what they can get in return. But right now, he provides a luxurious cushion.
Shortly after Luongo’s press conference, Gillis took the stands and stood in front of the microphones to address the media. His confident personae played down the fact that he wasn’t able to do what he sought out to do on trade deadline day in landing another viable piece in the lineup and cutting ties with Luongo.
“I think to win in the Stanley Cup playoffs, you need two things: you need goaltending and you need some luck. And the third thing is you have to have a good team. So I think we have a good team, we need great goaltending and we need to get some luck. You can emerge from the West if you get those things, but everything does have to go perfectly for you to win the Stanley Cup.”
“I think with the addition of Derek (Roy), we filled a real need that we have and with Ryan (Kesler) coming back, Zack (Kassian) will be coming back, Mason (Raymond) will be back, Dale Weise will be coming back, so we are going to fill out our roster with good players,” said Gillis.
He has a point.
With the addition of Roy, who had instant chemistry with Chris Higgins on the second-line last Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers, and the return of Kesler, who is expected to be back sometime this week, this Canucks team is suddenly a completely different team. Having a secondary force that can contribute on a nightly basis other than the Sedins is exactly what this team needs in order to be successful. Opponents now have to spread their attention across the board and worry about another line to shutdown other than the Sedin twins. And if Kesler centres the second-line with Raymond and Kassian on the wings while Roy centres the third-line alongside Higgins and Hansen, that leaves teams with three solid offensive lines to worry about when they face the Canucks.
If lady luck does find her way into the Canucks organization this spring, then Gillis is going to come out looking like a genius. Keeping Luongo, adding one piece to the puzzle with Roy before the deadline, and capturing the Stanley Cup? They would sure make the Pittsburgh Penguins look foolish. I bet it would be easier to trade Luongo when he has a Stanley Cup ring on his finger. On the other hand, if they fall short and don’t make it past the first or second round of the post-season, there will be some serious changes this summer. Luongo will be gone, Coach Alain Vigneault will likely get the boot, and Gillis will be in the hot seat for not putting together a Stanley Cup contending team. It’s a make-or-break year. Do the Canucks have what it takes?