Heritage Classic Drama Eventually Brought End to Roberto Luongo’s Time with Vancouver Canucks

By Casey Drottar
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Arguably one of the biggest stories with this year’s NHL trade deadline was that of Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks had spent the past few years trying to rid themselves of Luongo’s monster contract, which lasts until 2022.  In respect to Luongo, the team wasn’t trying to deal him because of any significant slips in either skill or durability.  It was merely due to the fact that their cap saw a significant hit for the next eight years.

Tuesday, the drama finally came to an end, as the Canucks traded Luongo to the Florida Panthers. It was one of the surprise deals of the deadline, but an even bigger surprise is the fact that what occurred at this past Sunday’s Heritage Classic essentially triggered trade talks.

During Vancouver’s outdoor game against the Ottawa Senators, coach John Tortorella started backup Eddie Lack instead of Luongo. Tortorella didn’t beat around the bush when asked how Luongo felt about being passed over, saying the goalie was “pissed.” He wasn’t the only one, as apparently numerous Canucks fans were chanting Luongo’s name as Lack let up three goals in a 4-2 loss.

According to Luongo’s agent, Pat Brisson, this benching was the final blow. Brisson told TSN 1050 that if his client got the starting nod at the outdoor event, he’d still be a Canuck today. Instead, he rode the pine, causing his agent to reach out to Vancouver’s front office and “discuss Luongo’s status.”

It’s odd to think that, had Tortorella simply let Luongo start the Heritage Classic, there’s a chance none of this would’ve happened, at least not at the deadline. In the end, it might be good news for the embattled goalie.

Say what you want about the Panthers, they aren’t nearly draped in as many issues as Vancouver. This is a team that was one game away from a Stanley Cup Championship just three years ago, and has steadily fallen down the standings in the years since. If the current season ended today, they’d miss the postseason by two points. It’s a difference they can obviously make up in the remaining weeks, but it’s hardly a cake-walk. Their coach has been clamoring to change the team for a month now. Their GM, Mike Gillis, was stuck in trade drama with both Luongo and talented forward Ryan Kesler (who ended up not being dealt). Oh, and Daniel Sedin was just placed on injured reserve.

It had become very apparent that the issues with Vancouver were wearing on Luongo, and you have to think there was a sigh of relief when he heard he was being traded Tuesday. The fact that the anger over not starting in the Heritage Classic was the final straw just shows how rough things had gotten. Whether or not he finds greener pastures in Florida is anyone’s guess. Barring some sort of miracle run, the Panthers will miss out on the playoffs this year.

That said, it certainly sounds like it was a good time to move on from Vancouver. The team has been unable to achieve consistency, the coach is struggling to find answers and the fans aren’t happy with the product they’re paying to see. Luongo has dealt with the whirlwind for enough years, and getting benched for the Heritage Classic ended up being all he and his agent needed to finally bring an end to the tumultuous times.

Casey Drottar is an NHL writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @CDrottar19 or “Like” him on Facebook

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