There were anxious moments late Wednesday morning, but Roberto Luongo is still a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said the organization was “close a number of times,” but did not pull the trigger on a trade-deadline deal involving Luongo, keeping the goaltender in Vancouver for the immediate future.
“We were listening a lot and thought we were confident in getting something done but it didn’t come together,” Gillis said during a press conference.
Gillis later added the Canucks had discussions with five other teams over the past six months.
Despite the fact there was no Luongo trade, there was drama. Plenty of it, in fact, in the lead-up to the deadline, which was at noon, PT.
Luongo participated in Wednesday’s practice and was suddenly pulled off the ice near the end of the skate, while his teammates were still going through their stretches, setting off a whirlwind of speculation that perhaps a last-minute deal was in the works.
But it never happened.
Luongo, who has been at the centre of trade speculation since last April when Cory Schneider took over the starting duties in the opening round of the playoffs, then addressed the media in a press conference around 12:30 p.m. PT.
“Honestly, it’s weird. I’ve been pretty calm about the whole situation, until about – for some reason – yesterday, late evening,” said Luongo.
“I started getting weird feelings in my stomach – not that I had to go to the bathroom. I was getting nervous and…obviously I knew why but it was the first time really that I had that type of feeling in my gut.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen but now that it’s over…I can focus on hockey.”
Luongo was the winning goalie for Canada at the 2010 Olympics and helped take the Canucks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. He had been with the Canucks since a trade brought him to Vancouver in June of 2006.
Luongo, who turns 34 years of age on Thursday, is in the third year of a 12-year, $64 million contract that includes a no-trade clause, which is largely believed to be the main reason why he could not be traded.
The goalie and the GM had differing opinions on that.
“My contract sucks,” said Luongo, the comment being met with a chorus of laughs.
“That’s what the problem is and unfortunately it’s a big factor in trading me and it’s probably why I’m still here.”
Gillis tried to downplay Luongo’s comments, as well as the contract being a prohibitive factor in trade talks surrounding the goalie.
“I think that he was very emotional and I think these days are emotional for everybody,” said Gillis.
“So, when you have a day like this where your whole life could be turned upside down, then you speak to you guys (media) right after, I think there’s an opportunity for things to be said that in the clear light of day might not be reflective of how he really feels.”
And the reasons, according to Gillis, why Luongo was not moved?
“Basically, the discussions we’ve had, I still don’t think it’s as hard as people want to make it out to be,” said the GM.
“I’ve never been told there was a stumbling block. The discussions we’ve had didn’t surround a stumbling block, it surrounded players, draft picks, him (Luongo), places where he might go. Those were bigger hurdles in the discussion than anything about contract.”
For now, Luongo will be the back-up behind the 27-year-old Schneider, who has started the last eight games, going 6-2-0.
“I’m going to gather myself for the rest of the day and make sure that when I come to work tomorrow, I’m going to be 100 per cent dedicated to this team, the rest of the year,” said Luongo.
“No matter what that capacity is.”
CANUCKS HAD INTEREST IN RAFFI TORRES
Gillis confirmed the Canucks had discussions with the Phoenix Coyotes about Raffi Torres prior to the deadline.
Torres, who spent the 2010-11 season with the Canucks, was traded from the Coyotes to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday.
“We were talking to them (Coyotes) about Raffi for some time now,” said Gillis.
“He’s been a player that we’re familiar with, he was a good player here and we were talking to them all day today and it didn’t work out for us.”