Canucks, Luongo make cap fit

Cam Cole
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Because goalie got a long-term deal doesn't mean he's in it for the long run

Sixty-four million smackers doesn't buy what it used to. Not even a personal appearance by the recipient.

To see Roberto Luongo in the flesh on the day the Vancouver Canucks were announcing a 12-year, $64-million US contract extension that retains the goaltender's rights until the 2021-22 season, a guy would have had to be at Arena Roberto Luongo in the Montreal borough of Saint Leonard.

Maybe over there, reporters had slightly more success triangulating toward the general vicinity of the unvarnished truth than the group that surrounded Canucks general manager and president Mike Gillis at GM Place, where we were given to understand that Luongo got a 12-year top-up not as a way to circumvent the salary cap but because the Canucks, cross-their-hearts-and-hope-to-die, believe he will still be playing when he's 43.

Roberto Luongo (shown above) and the Vancouver Canucks have agreed on a 12-year contract extension that will pay the star goaltender a total of $64 million US. Photo by The Canadian Press

Vancouver -

Sixty-four million smackers doesn't buy what it used to. Not even a personal appearance by the recipient.

To see Roberto Luongo in the flesh on the day the Vancouver Canucks were announcing a 12-year, $64-million US contract extension that retains the goaltender's rights until the 2021-22 season, a guy would have had to be at Arena Roberto Luongo in the Montreal borough of Saint Leonard.

Maybe over there, reporters had slightly more success triangulating toward the general vicinity of the unvarnished truth than the group that surrounded Canucks general manager and president Mike Gillis at GM Place, where we were given to understand that Luongo got a 12-year top-up not as a way to circumvent the salary cap but because the Canucks, cross-their-hearts-and-hope-to-die, believe he will still be playing when he's 43.

On second thought, I doubt that the Montreal scrum had much joy, either.

"It was important for both sides (to make the cap number manageable)," said Luongo. "I love playing the game and I want to play it as long as possible . . . so I hope it's going to be until the end because that's why I signed."

Because the salary cap number is the average per-year value of the contract, Luongo counts for only $5.33 million against the cap. That's less than the $6.1 million each for Daniel and Henrik Sedin over the five-year term of their identical deals - and if the National Hockey League's is investigating the transparently disingenuous pacts signed by Marian Hossa (12 years, $63 million) in Chicago and Chris Pronger (seven years, $34.5 million) in Philly, with zero chance of either player still being active in the latter stages of the contracts, why wouldn't it look into this one?

"Well, I think the fact Roberto's a goalie. I think being a goaltender separates anyone from scrutiny in these kinds of contracts, because it's been proven that they can play for extended periods of time and still be dominant players," said Gillis.

That's his story, and he's sticking to it.

"We saw two 40-year-old goalies playing in the league this year (well, one, anyway - Curtis Joseph). Dominik Hasek was a dominant goalie late into his 30s and early 40s. Johnny Bower a long time ago, I mean there's lots of precedent at this position.

"We didn't have any of the discomfort we might have had with a skating defenceman or forward.

"Roberto plays a very cerebral type game, he's not making acrobatic saves and diving all over the place and relying on reflexes. He relies on intelligence and preparation and game planning and . . . and that gives us a lot of confidence that he's going to be a top player for a long time."

I'm pretty sure not even Gillis believes Luongo is going to be within 3,000 km of Vancouver by the eighth year of this deal - but there is recent precedent for players leaving years and millions on the table by retiring before their contracts have expired (see Markus Naslund, Jason Smith), which takes their teams off the hook cap-wise. Odds are, that's how this ultimately will go with Luongo.

Regardless, it's time Gillis got some credit for putting this exclamation point on one heck of a summer - in which he and his capologist Laurence Gilman made personal (and evidently persuasive) presentations to the Sedins in Sweden and Luongo in Montreal and brought home the bacon both times.

Maybe most impressively, the Canucks' best player - arguably one of the top 15 in the NHL - is costing them $5.33 million against the cap. That becomes a very palatable high-water mark, and Gillis is going to have to hear an awfully good argument from anyone in the future who thinks he's worth more than the team's best player.

Organizations: Vancouver Canucks, National Hockey League

Geographic location: Montreal, Vancouver, US Saint Leonard Chicago Sweden

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