Monday, January 30, 2006

The deal with Luongo

I've been meaning to get to Roberto Luongo at some point, and since Eric at Off Wing Opinion did some pondering yesterday, now seems like a good time.

First, to what Eric had to say:

I'm sure it didn't escape Luongo's notice that Devils goalie Martin Brodeur just signed a six-year $31 million contract extension, essentially setting the market rate for an elite goalie.

Which means the Panthers think Luongo is worth a little less than $1 million per season more than Brodeur, but Team Luongo thinks they can do better.

Now, call me crazy, but I don't think coin is what 'Louie' is after here (his agent, of course, could be another matter). His case really is one of the rare ones where it's not all about the money.

In fact, it might not even be about the money at all.

Picking through's latest reader mailbag, one of Scott Cullen's responses highlights nicely what Luongo is looking for:
Since the Vezina Trophy was awarded to the outstanding goaltender starting in 1982, it has never been awarded to a goaltender that didn't make the playoffs. Before that, the Vezina was awarded to the goaltenders with the lowest team goals against average. In 1931, Roy Worters of the New York Americans had the best goals against average (1.68) for the season, but the Americans did miss the playoffs.
OK, now with that said, allow me a few sentences to set the scene for you here.

It's August, 2005, and you're Roberto Luongo. And, rather than negotiate a deal in relative privacy, Panthers GM Mike Keenan has decided instead to force you through an arbitration hearing — mainly, in your opinion, to get a better deal. The night before the hearing, looking to save face, Keenan offers a $25-million/5-year deal. You reject it, prefering instead to go to arbitration and not lock yourself in with an organization that has shown anything but a commitment to winning in the four years you've starred there.

In arbitration, Keenan digs in hard, flaunting the fact that a goaltender who has never played in the playoffs can hardly be worth big-time goalie money — neglecting the fact that that's what was offered only the night before.

All the while, you can't help but think: 'You're not exactly putting the 1994 Rangers in front of me there, Mike.'

Annnnnd... cut.

Make no mistake, Luongo was steamed with how things went down this summer. He's no prima-donna-type player, but he is fiercely competitive and feels he's deserved more accolades than he receives playing for the Panthers.

The fact is, as highly regarded as Luongo is, he'll never be feted as one of the greats unless he can win big games. As Cullen's mailbag response notes, he'll never win Vezina Trophy behind a non-playoff team.

Considering Keenan has made a mess of St. Louis, Vancouver, Boston and now Florida in the past ten years, Luongo has every right to be skeptical the wins are on the way with this club. Luongo will also shortly be without the handle of 'top young goaltender' — he does, after all, turn 27 in April.

Regardless of how full his bank account could be, what Luongo really wants is his due as one of the top goaltenders of his generation. And, in Florida, all he can hear is the clock ticking — especially in April.



At 8:25 a.m., January 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outstanding work, Mr. Mirtle.

At 11:16 p.m., January 30, 2006, Blogger Tom L said...

Gotta Agree with Lyle, there. Excellent piece James.

If the Keenan was smart he'd deal Luongo at the deadline and move on.

Best for both parties I should think.



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