Roberto Luongo: Keeping Him Could Be Too Much of a Distraction for the Canucks

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Roberto Luongo: Keeping Him Could Be Too Much of a Distraction for the Canucks
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Ever since Cory Schneider took over the goaltending duties from Roberto Luongo during last spring's playoff meeting between the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings, the gossip mill has churned over what Luongo's future will hold.

Lately, even Luongo himself seems to have made peace with the idea that he'll still be a Canuck when the NHL finally resumes play, as he told Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun back in October:

We're just going to wait and see. I'm getting ready as if I am coming back here for training camp when it's over and if things change we'll take care of that when it comes.

In past articles, I've suggested that it might be a good idea for Luongo to stay with the Canucks for awhile after the lockout ends.

A shortened season will mean a condensed schedule: With two No. 1 goalies, the Canucks could be better positioned than most teams to handle a heavy workload.

Furthermore, it's likely that Luongo's market value will increase once play resumes. Teams will face injuries or disappointing play from their incumbents and may be more tempted to make a change than they have been during the offseason.

For his part, while Florida is clearly his preferred destination, Luongo says he is open to possibilities once a deal starts to firm up. Again, from Brad Ziemer:

At this point in time, I think we all know what the situation is with me, but there are many teams out there that I'll consider for sure.

Still, for all the benefits that might come from keeping Luongo around, there are also some very real costs.

Elsa/Getty Images

The first is the cash money. If Luongo remains a Canuck, his $5.3 million cap hit is money that the team can't pour into shoring up its forward lines. Vancouver is still in need of a third-line center and some muscle up front. Based on the current salary cap structure, they have $67.7 million committed against a $70.2 million cap, leaving them with a relatively small $2.4 million to try to fill their roster holes. 

If they move Luongo, they'll have to take some salary back in return. If they get one or more players who can slip into those open roles, then the Canucks kill two birds with one stone.

The second issue if Luongo stays is the impact on Cory Schneider. His goaltending stats so far in his career have been phenomenal, and in 2011-12 he showed the poise and personality of a true No. 1, which is what landed the Canucks in this dilemma.

Schneider is 26, and the Canucks showed that they're ready for him to take charge when they awarded him a three year, $12 million deal this summer. He deserves the opportunity to carry the full weight of the No. 1 responsibility, and Eddie Lack is waiting in the wings with the Chicago Wolves to assume the backup position. If Vancouver goes with a dual No. 1 rotation, it shortchanges Schneider and still won't give the team or its fans a full impression of what the lanky redhead can do when he's truly in charge.

The biggest concern, however, has to be the circus-like atmosphere that will surround the team for as long as Luongo remains a Canuck. Hockey news has slowed to a trickle as the lockout enters its third month, but media in Vancouver and other cities continue to stir the pot with trade rumors and whispers from secret sources. Considering no deal can be made until the lockout ends, one can only imagine how loud the voices will become once it's actually possible for Luongo to be moved.

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The Canucks' players are accustomed to dealing with an intense media spotlight, but there's no doubt that glare will be even brighter until Luongo is dealt. With all the effort that Mike Gillis and the Canucks have put into fostering a positive atmosphere in their dressing room, Luongo could undo a lot of that effort with his mere presence in that room. Keeping him around could be a disservice not only to Schneider but also to the rest of the team.

From that point of view, maybe Canucks fans should be hoping for a cancelled season? That would remove the temptation of keeping Luongo to help handle a condensed schedule and could give Mike Gillis more time to make his best deal in a calmer atmosphere before 2012-13 begins.

 

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