A rush of players blasts over the blueline, a pass slides to Daniel Sedin near the front of the net and he pops a blink-quick wrist shot high to the top-left corner as Roberto Luongo deftly gets his blocker up to deflect the puck away and out of danger.
This was among the scenes midday Friday at the University of British Columbia, as the most of the Vancouver Canucks gathered for their final informal practice ahead of the abridged preseason, which begins this weekend, welcoming back everyone and, of particular attention, Luongo, the goaltender many (including Luongo) had expected to be traded by now.
But no, there was Luongo, looking sharp, especially given his history of early season wavering. How long he sticks around is unknown and the conventional wisdom – which has been proved wrong several times already – figures he’ll be traded soon. But on Friday, there were several suggestions the saga might just extend a little while longer. Sure, odds are better on sooner rather than later but Luongo plainly indicated the expectation of a fast, blockbuster trade to Toronto, Philadelphia, Edmonton or some other destination isn’t necessarily the certain bet.
The factor that slows the move? Mike Gillis, Vancouver Canucks president and general manager, isn’t feeling urgent, and wants something tangible, two or three real players, in return if he is to move his former starting goaltender. Luongo and Gillis have spoken only a few times since last season but Luongo, facing a crush of reporters after practice, said several intriguing – if not somewhat vague – things on Friday.
“I told him [Gillis] I was ready to go as long as it took, whether that’s a couple days, next week, two weeks, or at the end of the season, it’s totally fine with me,” Luongo said.
While Luongo has previously spoken about Florida, he wasn’t specific about any destination, save to say he is flexible.
“I’m open to a lot of possibilities. I think me and Mike right now are on the same page about certain things and until there’s an answer for me I’ll just wait patiently.”
Questioned about what sway or say he or his agent, Gilles Lupien, have in the process, given that Luongo has a no-trade clause, Luongo parried.
“That’s a tough one to answer,” said Luongo, his hands folded behind his back, his usual interview mien. “At this point ... I’m really waiting for Mike to come see me. That’s about it right now, so I’m focused on being here until I’m told otherwise.”
Last April, Luongo had said he would waive the clause, after he was benched for backup Cory Schneider and the Canucks were ousted by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs. Of the no-trade clause, Luongo was blunt on Friday: “Even though I have a no-trade clause, it doesn’t really mean much at this point.”
As for the coming season, especially if he is in Vancouver longer than expected, and sitting on the bench backing up Schneider, Luongo said he looked at it like the 2010 Winter Olympics, when it was no certain thing he’d be starting for Canada instead of Martin Brodeur.
“I’m just going to show up, have fun, enjoy the game, and you know whatever happens, happens. I’m not going to stress myself about a trade or how many games I’m going to play. I’m just going to enjoy it. Last time I did that [in February of 2010] I think things worked out pretty well for me.”
Schneider, coming off the ice, was empathic, a 26-year-old who sees his friend and mentor at 33 being wrung through a difficult situation.
“That’s the thing about this league,” Schneider said, “there’s always somebody trying to take your job. It happens to everyone at some point. It’s how you carry yourself, and how you act as a teammate and as a friend. Lu is great in both those regards. … He’s just been very very – I don’t know if humble is the word – but just graceful in all of this.”
Earlier on Friday, at Rogers Arena, Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault held court, and also mostly parried questions about his goaltenders, except to say he likes the duo that in large part carried the team last season, especially when Vancouver’s goal-scoring abilities evaporated.
“Right now I have two top-end goaltenders,” Vigneault said when asked whether Schneider is the team’s starter as training camp begins. “I feel very fortunate. We probably have the best duo in the NHL. I think I’ve show in the past I know how to use both goaltenders for the benefit of the team.”
On Luongo, Vigneault said: “He’s a class individual. … He always put the team ahead of himself.”