January 22, 2013 5:15 PM | By Jeff Hale, MSN Sports

Canucks need to trade Luongo before the sideshow gets any bigger

Vancouver GM Mike Gillis has shown admirable patience but he is courting bigger trouble if he doesn't move his goalie

Vancouver Canucks' goalie Roberto Luongo looks on during the singing of "O Canada" before playing the Edmonton Oilers during an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday January 20, 2013. (© CANADIAN PRESS - Darryl Dyck)

Vancouver Canucks' goalie Roberto Luongo looks on during the singing of "O Canada" before playing the Edmonton Oilers during an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday January 20, 2013.

Jeff Hale, MSN Sports

Jeff Hale, MSN Sports

Among the things that should be handled very, very carefully: Ming vases, questions about your wife’s age and trade talks involving star goalies.

This typist has no idea how Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis deals with the first two but Gillis certainly applied much caution when it came to trade offers for Roberto Luongo. Many fans were surprised Luongo was with the Canucks when the NHL season started Saturday. In an interview on a Vancouver radio station last week, Gillis dismissed suggestions he was asking too much for Luongo, adding the notion of “fair value” for a player differs from team to team.

Gillies was firing back at Toronto’s sports media, which has been clamouring for the Maple Leafs to secure Luongo. There were reports Brian Burke’s failure to pull the trigger on a Luongo deal led, in part, to his recent firing by the Leafs’ ownership. True or not, it does indicate how supercharged the situation had become.

Enriching the plot was Luongo’s play this past weekend. He won no suitors with his effort in relief of No. 1 goalie Cory Schneider in Saturday’s 7-3 season-opening loss to the Anaheim Ducks and he could not protect a 2-0 lead on Sunday in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Nevertheless, some team remained interested in Luongo. Gillis indicated on Tuesday he had a pending trade for the goalie. There were no early indications on the team involved.

Schneider’s play has not helped expedite matters. He allowed five goals on 14 shots against Anaheim before getting yanked. That floperoo set Canucks fans on edge in what has become Vancouver’s best reality show, bar none. To the credit of both Luongo and Schneider, neither goalie has displayed any hint of enmity toward his counterpart, Luongo praising Schneider as one of the bright young talents in the league.

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The Canucks committed to dealing Luongo last spring when they essentially anointed Schneider as their goalie during their first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings. In the summer, Luongo said he would waive his no-trade clause and added a deal to the Florida Panthers “makes sense.” Luongo has an off-season home in South Florida he returns to each year with his family.

Conventional wisdom would hold then, that the Canucks were over a barrel trading Luongo. Gillis traffics little in conventional wisdom, though, as we have found out with the ventures he has initiated to help the Canucks players, such as the use of sleep experts, special juices and psychological studies. He will not be cowed into making a trade he does not believe helps the Canucks.

If it was solely about determination, Gillis would be all set. But there are additional elements pressing on a probable deal. Luongo, who is 33, has 10 years left on his contract, one that comes with a salary cap hit of $5.33 million (US). Gillis says the contract presents no obstacle to a deal, although given the time it has taken to assemble this trade, he may have been whistling heartily past the graveyard.

The patience Gillis has exercised on a Luongo trade may stem from tacit acknowledgment the Canucks’ opportunity to win a Stanley Cup is ebbing. The Sedins will turn 33 this fall and forwards Ryan Kesler and David Booth are both out with long-term injuries. Gillis needs help up front that will contribute immediately and throughout the playoffs. Easy to identify, quite another matter to acquire. 

It is important to remember the Canucks orchestrated this scenario; Luongo did not ask for a trade. With the Canucks already somewhat out of sorts in this nascent season, poor defensive play one night, a lack of offence the next, Gillis has had his hand forced. The longer this soap opera twisted and turned, the greater its chances of seeping into the team’s psyche, no matter how much public patty cake Schneider and Luongo played, no matter how resolute the stance from Gillis and coach Alain Vigneault. To ensure Vancouver’s early stumble doesn’t morph into a full-fledged pratfall, Gillis has to sweep aside the courage of his conviction and cut a deal. For his sake, it better work out.

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