Above the 49: Fixing Luongo relationship crucial for Canucks
By Daniel Fung, Sports Network Columnist
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The goaltending merry-go-round for the Vancouver Canucks may have ended on Sunday, but there is still plenty of fallout for the club.
The most pressing matter for the team now is to repair the relationship with their previously deposed and suddenly again No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo.
It's an issue the team will especially want to settle particularly before the opening of free agency on Friday.
On Sunday at the NHL Draft, the Canucks finally put to rest all the goaltending drama that had enveloped the team for the past year when they dealt Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the ninth overall pick in the draft. They used it to take forward Bo Horvat of the OHL's London Knights.
It was a move that caught many around the league off-guard given the time and energy the Canucks spent last season investing in Schneider as their starting netminder after anointing him as their main man between the pipes just over a year ago.
The trade essentially serves as a reset button for the Canucks. They now turn back to the 34-year-old Luongo between the pipes minus the safety net of having a very capable and proven second netminder in Schneider.
But what the move also has done is set back the strides the Canucks have made since the arrival of general manager Mike Gillis in terms of improving the team's reputation and turning Vancouver into a top destination for players.
It's hard to imagine there aren't potential free agents around the league who after seeing everything that has gone on in Vancouver over the last year or so have taken the Canucks off their list of potential teams.
This isn't so much an indictment of the Canucks roster that, even after the departure of Schneider, should still be considered one of the more talent-laden ones in the league and certainly one that still deserves to be in the conversation as far as being a Stanley Cup contender. Rather, it's an indication of the hit the team has taken over the last year or so when it comes to dealing with player loyalty.
It's true the NHL is big business and the bottom line for each team is to pursue winning at all costs, even if that means causing a few hurt feelings along the way. Just look at the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, who dispatched one of their key players in Dave Bolland - he scored the Cup- winning goal - to Toronto at the draft less than a week after capturing the title because they knew they wouldn't be able to fit his salary under the new cap.
But while both the Bolland and Schneider moves were motivated by business, the optics of the Schneider trade looks significantly worse because the Canucks spent the past year seemingly making him a big part of their future.
Schneider isn't the only player who has been caught up in the Canucks' sudden course correction. Vancouver acknowledged this past weekend it had investigated moving blue-liner Alexander Edler, knowing his no-trade clause was set to kick on July 1.
Edler inked a six-year contract extension back in January that, despite making him the highest paid defenseman on the team, was widely acknowledged to be less-than-market value for him if he were to hit unrestricted free agency.
The fact the Canucks were actively looking to ship out a key player from their team in order to get themselves out of a contract that, at the time it was signed, both parties agreed to in good faith certainly has to make players question whether the team will be less than truthful in their future dealings as well.
But that's where the successfully mending Luongo relationship can be a difference maker.
Whether the Canucks like it or not, assuming Luongo doesn't choose to make life even more difficult for the them by sitting out, the 2010 Olympic gold medal winner will play a significant role in helping the team attract top-end talent to the team from now until the end of his contract.
It means that not only will players be watching the way he performs on the ice to gauge whether the Canucks continue to be a legitimate championship contender, but they'll also be closely observing his relationship with team management to decide whether or not they can potentially negotiate with the Canucks in good faith.
You would have to think if the Canucks can smooth things over with Luongo after this whole debacle that they would be adept to handle any player personnel issue that might arise.
If they can't, then it could mean some harsh times for the Canucks and their fan base in the years to come.
07/03 09:45:55 ET