Roberto Luongo lacks leverage with the Canucks

Jonathan Daniel

Speculation continues about the future of Roberto Luongo in Vancouver. However, the goaltender appears limited in his ability to dictate the situation to management.

At the start of the week, I wondered about the future of a goaltender. Fittingly, I close out the week in a similar fashion.

One of the biggest stories of 2012-13, was the status of Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. For the entire year, we thought Luongo's days in Vancouver were numbered. That wasn't speculation, that was publicly spoken fact.

Manger Mike Gillis acknowledged it. Luongo acknowledged it. The media acknowledged it.

The only thing standing in the way was a contract.

The situation evolved on June 30 at the 2013 NHL Draft, but not in the way many expected. Cory Schneider -- the Canucks assumed goaltender of the future -- and not Luongo, had been traded to a new team, the New Jersey Devils. While the possibility of Schneider being moved was in the ether, no body thought it would actually happen. That's because it appeared as though the relationship between Luongo and the Canucks was too strained to be salvaged.

Now, that theory will be put to the test.

For the first time since the deal, Luongo released comment about his future on Thursday. It's nothing to read too much into. His newly hired agent Pat Brisson told TSN's Farhan Lalji that Luongo has a contract with the Canucks and plans to report to training camp. In addition, the goalie took to his twitter account to playfully chirp new backup Eddie Lack.

Other than that, speculation continues.

Luongo's decision to fire his agent, Gilles Lupien, for the high-powered representation at Creative Artists Agency has caused waves. For a player with nine-years remaining on a 12-year contract, the need for a new agent appears strange, via Nucks Misconduct:

I do however believe that with the hiring of Barry and Brisson, Luongo's tenure in Vancouver will not last much longer. Those two guys are going to continually hound Mike Gillis and Canucks' management to continually push the Canucks and other teams for a trade, or to buy out the remainder of his contract in the future.

There certainly appears to be a large segment of people who think Luongo is contemplating a way out of Vancouver.

As the trade deadline came and went, Luongo left Canucks practice to discuss not being traded. The comment that stood out was about his contract sucking. It was funny and obviously got the lead.

However, he also mentioned -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that he had been patient in waiting out a resolution, but could play hardball in the future if things didn't go his way. Things haven't gone his way and now some believe he's ready to bat. It's a logical assumption to make.

Regardless of representation, I don't understand how Luongo could force the Canucks to trade him. I don't have experience extending a trade request, but from my perspective Luongo lacks leverage. Luongo is still owed more than $40 million and is scheduled to earn $6.714 million (in real money) annually for the next five years, according to CapGeek.com.

In the event he retires after this season, the Canucks would face a cap benefit recapture penalty of $1.1 million annually until the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. That's not really a daunting figure to deal with, especially when compared to the $6 million the team has to pay him (but would no longer have to if he stopped playing). Based upon CapGeek's recapture calculator, the penalty doesn't seem like it would be a real issue even when it starts to exceed $4 million in the final three years of the deal. To that end, the team wouldn't owe money, they would just lose cap space with -- what is assumed to be -- a rising salary cap.

In terms of a buyout, I don't see why the team would want to pay him not to play, especially considering he is a good goaltender and they traded away Schneider.

Short of refusing to play -- and that option doesn't seem too beneficial -- Luongo has no out.

I'm no expert. The guys at CAA are, and could be concocting some way to complete a buyout or trade or something else to get their client out of Vancouver. But based upon my understanding, I don't see how Luongo could force the Canucks to do anything.

Of course, that's assuming that Luongo wants out of Vancouver, which I think is a logical perspective, but to this point is still an unproven perspective.

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