Roberto Luongo spoke with reporters near Coral Springs, Florida on Tuesday, reaffirming his desire to return to the Panthers once the NHL resumes play under the new CBA.
Luongo’s request is not unexpected, given that the goaltender’s family maintains its summer home in the Sunshine State. But given that Luongo’s departure in Florida after the 2005-06 season was less than acrimonious – in forcing his way out of town, he demanded that the Panthers retain his backup netminder, hire his personal coach, and release a public statement that he would not be traded – Cats fans will be sure to take his words with a grain of salt.
Consider that following his June 2006 trade to the Canucks, the Canadian expressed surprise, stating that the team and his camp had been close to coming to a long-term agreement. However, the contract he turned down in Florida, a reported five years and $30 million, was significantly more than the 4-year, $27 million deal he signed with Vancouver after the trade.
Although Luongo has provided the Vancouver faithful with a bevy of individual and team accolades, management did not help matters by naming him team captain in 2008. Only two years later, he suffered his worst season statistically as a Canuck, with a 2.57 GAA and .913 save percentage. The added responsibility did not translate well in the playoffs either. He refused to make himself available to the media during the West Finals after 21 goals in six games. This was an interesting move considering the influence of the Canadian media and his stature as team captain.
Though Canucks general manager Mike Gillis conceded the issue had to be addressed, the team made no move to strip him of the captaincy, instead watching as he dispatched himself of the honor before the opening of the 2010-11 season. Perhaps feeling greater control over the future of their franchise netminder, Gillis hired a new goaltending coach, firing his longtime personal coach with the Canucks. Luongo, who has long preferred the lion’s share of starts, was also forced to accept a shorter workload, as the Canucks continued to develop young goaltender Cory Schneider.
Schneider, selected by the team 26th overall in 2004, has surely made the most of his opportunity. Over the past two seasons, he has compiled a record of 38-17 with a GAA of 2.24 and a save percentage of .928. His regular season performance in 2011-12 was particularly noteworthy, with team milestones for best GAA (1.96) and save percentage (.937) in a single season. In stark comparison, his partner in net suffered, appearing in the second-lowest number of regular-season games (55) in his Canucks tenure due to a reoccurring groin injury and giving up seven goals on 64 shots in two playoff losses to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles.
The bottom line? Luongo has done no favors to the team by making his desired destination public, giving his future team more leverage in negotiations and hampering the franchise who entrusted so much to him.