August 12, 2010
That was before Luongo's 12-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks faced renewed scrutiny by the NHL following its arbitration victory over Ilya Kovalchuk(notes), the NHLPA and cap-circumventing contracts.
If the NHL nullified the deal, FanHouse wrote, it would give GM Mike Gillis a chance to replace him with former Chicago Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi(notes), who "at age 26 and with a Stanley Cup title already under his belt, has a lot of upside." Jeez, don't let the locker room door hit you on the rump-roast on the way out, Lou ...
This continues a trend that started after the déjà vu of the Blackhawks curb-stomping the Canucks in the Western Conference semifinals, with Luongo's captaincy and the value of big-money goalies in today's NHL hotly debated. Of course, that was just the main course after the previous season's appetizing "Trade Luongo" talk.
Luongo has his critics, and those critics see a contract nullification as the latest chance to jettison a goalie that can't seem to get his team over in the postseason. Jason Botchford of The Province noted this, and got Luongo's back in a piece about the contract investigation:
It's been suggested the Canucks would actually welcome a move by the league to void Luongo's deal because, after flunking out of the playoffs for two consecutive seasons, there is a growing consensus he's not worth it. This seems absurd.
Luongo has proven to be one of the most consistent goalies in NHL history. His lifetime .918 save percentage ranks second all-time for goalies who have played more than 250 games. Yes, he is coming off the most disappointing year of his career. His .913 save percentage was the lowest since he was a rookie. But, despite Antti Niemi and the Chicago Blackhawks, teams still win with big-time goaltenders. Of the five Stanley Cup championship teams since the lockout, three of them were backstopped by high-profile netminders.
(Check out Botchford's full article for why he believes Luongo's contract would be safe from de-registration, including the revelation that the NHL asked the Canucks to cut the deal down to 10 years before Luongo agreed to 12.)
Nucks Misconduct ran a poll this week asking if fans would be enraged or pleased if Luongo's long-term deal was voided. The majority of respondents voted: "Pissed. I think Luongo is going to rebound this year. Re-sign him for as long as possible."
There's no question he needs to prove himself as a postseason goalie, and that it's understandable if his status as "The Franchise" is questioned should he falter again. But we can give you two good reasons why swapping Luongo for Niemi would be asinine: Duncan Keith(notes) and Brent Seabrook(notes); who, at last glance, aren't on the Canucks' blue line next season ...