Roberto Luongo: Should the Vancouver Canucks Trust Him or Trade Him?

Chris SadekContributor IIIJune 22, 2011

VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 15:  Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during Game Seven against the Boston Bruins in the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The championship window for the Vancouver Canucks is not closed. Most of their core players, including Ryan Kesler, the Sedins, and Alex Burrows, will be returning next year. Coach Alain Vigneault will also be back.

Vancouver's most important decision remains in goal. The Canucks have two excellent goalies and need to decide whether to keep both, or trade one. In pressure situations, Cory Schneider is unproven and Roberto Luongo is not trusted.

As TSN’s Jason Botchford recently stated, the environment surrounding Roberto Luongo in Vancouver is toxic.

Although the Canucks were a battered team during the Stanley Cup Finals, their play also reflected a lack of trust in Luongo. As a Leafs fan, I know what symptoms to look for.

When players do trust their goalie, they don’t over—commit on defence, and defencemen pinch more frequently. The latter was critical to Vancouver’s success throughout the season, and was very evident in the early rounds of the playoffs. Although Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins had a lot to do with Vancouver’s power outage in the Stanley Cup Finals, it was clear that Canucks D—men were taking fewer chances as the series went on.

In addition to the players, we also have to wonder about Alain Vigneault’s relationship with Luongo. Vigneault benched Luongo in Game 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and clearly did not know when he should—or shouldn’t—pull Luongo in the Stanley Cup Finals. Does he trust Luongo?

Don’t forget the fans. Vancouver fans have a relationship with Luongo that can best be described as “love—hate.” Right now, there’s a lot more hate going on. Some of it surely affects Luongo, who appeared all too human against Boston.

What about management? If Vancouver GM Mike Gillis trusts the goalie he’s signed to a long—term deal, shouldn’t we expect Corey Schneider to be sold to the highest bidder? Arguments could be made either way, and only time will tell. But as long as both goalies are in Vancouver, the Luongo vs. Schneider distraction is only going to get worse.

Many experts claim that Roberto Luongo, with a contract that carries a $5.3 million cap hit until 2022, is untradeable.

I disagree.

Is Luongo’s contract that ridiculous? I’m sure most NHL GMs would be willing to commit $5.3 million of cap space for a proven starter, and an increasing number of players have shown an ability to play at a high level into their late 30s and beyond (see Tim Thomas or Dwayne Roloson).

TSN has suggested that Luongo might be willing to return to Florida. Florida certainly has the cap room. In fact, the Panthers need to spend $30 million to reach the salary cap basement next year. 

Even if the Panthers re—sign Thomas Vokoun, several other teams would surely be interested in a proven starter like Roberto Luongo. Colorado, Edmonton, and Phoenix are on that list, and if the Philadelphia Flyers can’t sign Ilya Bryzgalov, they would definitely consider making an offer for Luongo.

Edmonton??? Would that make any sense?

The Oilers have the cap room, and can afford to trade some picks. If they’re willing to waste $3.75 million on Nikolai Khabibulin, why wouldn’t they commit to Luongo? Unlike Vancouver, Edmonton has a much harder time attracting star talent.

Correspondingly, Edmonton is a much more supportive environment, and I guarantee Oilers fans would embrace any star player willing to play in northern Alberta. A supportive environment could be huge for a goalie with fragile confidence.

Imagine the story four years from now with Hall, Eberle, and Nugent-Hopkins. A young Edmonton team against the aging Canucks. Roberto Luongo playing against his old team.

I’m not saying it will happen. I haven’t heard a single rumor to support it. But it makes sense to me.

The bottom line is that Roberto Luongo can be traded. Several NHL teams would trust him. The question is, do the Vancouver Canucks?