For almost a full year now, Roberto Luongo’s name has been linked to trade talk.
His future with the Vancouver Canucks and which National Hockey League teams could be in the market for a proven starting goaltender – perhaps looking to add someone of Luongo’s pedigree – remain hot-button topics, especially with the April 3 trade deadline now less than a week away.
“It’s always a different time of the year, I think, for everybody,” Luongo told reporters at Rogers Arena Wednesday, following an optional skate at UBC.
“For myself…I’m not too sure what’s going to happen. That being said, I’m just going keep doing what I’m doing, focus and work hard and make sure that I’m ready to go.”
Luongo was the only goalie to take part in Wednesday’s practice. He was joined by forwards Jordan Schroeder, Tom Sestito, Andrew Gordon, Zack Kassian and Steven Pinizzotto.
The Canucks host the reeling Colorado Avalanche, winners in just three of their last 10 games and at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, on Thursday.
Cory Schneider, who took over the starting role from Luongo in last year’s playoffs, will make his sixth consecutive start, according to associate coach Rick Bowness.
Despite bouts of struggle and inconsistency earlier this season, Schneider has been sensational over this latest stretch.
He’s won each of his last five starts – the Canucks are subsequently on a five-game winning streak – and he has two shutouts in his past three games.
So long as Schneider continues his stellar play, Luongo, at age 33 and in the third year of a 12-year, $64 million contract, will remain the back-up.
It might still seem unfamiliar for some, given Luongo has enjoyed No. 1 goalie status since he began his tenure with Vancouver back in the 2006-07 season and helped take the Canucks to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
“We all see how (Schneider) is playing right now,” said Luongo.
“He’s playing unreal, he’s probably the best goalie in the league right now, so obviously you’ve got to roll with the hot hand and that’s totally understandable.”
With the trade deadline looming, there is the possibility Luongo may have played his final game as a Canuck.
There’s also a chance he doesn’t get traded and would then remain one-half of Vancouver’s goalie duo heading down the stretch drive and into the post-season.
After all, there was belief last spring that he could be traded in the off-season. Ditto for when the lockout officially ended in January and players, coaches and general managers returned to their daily duties and the hastened training camp began.
“Honestly…if you asked me back then (in the spring) I didn’t really think I would be back for training camp,” Luongo said on Jan. 11, following his first skate with his teammates at UBC prior to training camp.
Luongo was penciled in as the back-up for opening night against the Anaheim Ducks, but took over for Schneider in the second period of what turned out to be a 7-3 shellacking of the Canucks on home ice.
And so began a stretch in which head coach Alain Vigneault employed a mythical coin to decide his starting goaltender, and neither Schneider or Luongo were quite able to take hold of the job – until just recently.
The reality is that if general manager Mike Gillis can’t find a trading partner to take Luongo, the goalie could be used sparingly at this most crucial juncture of the season.
“That’s all the things that I thought about before the season started,” said Luongo.
“I was fully aware of all the scenarios and potentially being here past the deadline or whatnot.”
He added that he had time to think about this situation during the lockout and that it was something he was “fully prepared for and whatever happens, I’ll accept it and be a good teammate.”
Thursday’s game against Colorado is also the last Canucks home game before the deadline.
Luongo was asked if he had reflected on the possibility that it could be his last home game as a Canuck.
“Not really, I don’t think about it that way at all,” he replied.
“I haven’t heard anything from (Mike Gillis), so there’s no reason for me to think that.”