Canucks GM Gillis sets record straight on goalie situation
On a local radio show Tuesday, Canucks GM Mike Gillis said his trip to the East Coast was to scout college players and catch a few NHL games, not to talk trade. (24 hours file photo)
Not long after Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis was spotted in the press box of Sunday's nationally televised game between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, online trade rumours rapidly escalated.
With the Capitals off to a 2-6-1 record and having given up the most goals in the NHL at the time, speculations of the Canucks moving goaltender Roberto Luongo to the U.S. capital made, at least, some sense. But as quickly as the trade chatter arose, so too did the denials of a potential deal.
Speaking with Vancouver radio station Team 1040 on Tuesday, Gillis admitted he was a bit surprised with the reaction and explained why he was actually on the East Coast.
“There were a couple of college players we wanted to see before a certain date and it just worked out this way that these were games that were convenient to come into this area and see those players, and catch a couple of NHL games,” Gillis explained, adding he wanted to watch some of the top eastern teams play “so that we can get a rationale on how our team stacks up against them.” He also noted the trip was planned a while back.
A day after his visit to the Verizon Center with Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman though, Gillis reportedly called Washington's George McPhee to make amends for causing a distraction — a gesture the Capitals GM appreciated.
“People went crazy when we were in the press box there,” Gillis said. “George’s team is having a slow start, and just wanted to make sure that he knew we were only there to catch a game, which he was aware of. It was just a courtesy to say to him that we hoped we didn’t cause any problems for him.”
Gillis also addressed a print interview by Cory Schneider’s agent, Mike Liut, with the Vancouver Sun on Monday where the former goalie said, “Our concern is we were hoping that this would be the year that Cory would play 75% of the games.”
Luit told the paper his client and himself were hoping for a resolution to the Canucks goaltending situation soon but didn’t want to get into the "finger-pointing game.”
"Laurence talked to (Liut) yesterday and whatever came out in the paper, I'm not sure how it was portrayed or what quote was used. They didn't share a sense of frustration with us at all,” Gillis told the radio station. “(Cory) knows our level of commitment to him and he knows how much we believe in him. I know when he gets in the net next he's not going to want to give it up just like Roberto. Because of the circumstances we all face in this kind of season, I think the competition is healthy, I think it's good.
“It's going to be an issue because Roberto is such a high-profile player and the opportunity for a team to acquire a player of that calibre who has his resume is unique and it’s going to gain a lot of attention.”
After their 3-2 overtime victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, the Northwest Division-leading Canucks have now won three straight — all with Luongo in net. The 33-year-old Montreal native, who has started four consecutive games, improved his record to 3-0-2 and is ranked third overall in both goals against average (1.53) and save percentage (.940).
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault isn’t expected to announce his starter for Thursday’s visit to Minnesota until Wednesday. After yet another win by Luongo, however, Schneider could find himself on the bench again for a fifth-straight game.
“We don’t have the luxury of … people’s feelings,” Gillis said of his younger ‘No. 1’ goalie who signed a three-year contract extension in the summer. “When Cory is back in the net, he’s going to be stellar, we know he is. He’s going to do everything he can to win hockey games for us and stay in the net.
“It’s not a situation we are nearly as concerned as a lot of people outside of our team are.”