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Long-term Luongo

Wednesday, 02.09.2009 / 11:30 AM / Features
By Derek Jory
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Long-term Luongo

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Roberto Luongo's decision to re-sign with the Canucks was an easy one.

He knows they can win.

When the Vancouver Canucks acquired Roberto Luongo in 2006, the team instantly became a threat from the net out.

On Wednesday the Canucks captain agreed to a 12-year contract extension ensuring Vancouver will maintain that status and hopefully upgrade it to Stanley Cup champion.

"This is a great day for me and my family," said Luongo, who was set to become a free agent following the 2009-10 season. "I love playing in a passionate hockey city like Vancouver and along with my teammates I am committed to doing everything I can to help make this a championship team."

The question of whether Luongo would re-sign with the Canucks has been bashed around like Plaxico Burress' reputation over the past year with most convinced that if Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis put the right pieces in front of the netminder, he'd gladly stay on the West Coast.

It just so happens that Gillis made that his priority when he became GM last year and with players like Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Mikael Samuelsson and Mathieu Schneider wanting to be here, it's easy to see that Gillis has upgraded the culture of the team.

Luongo is impressed with what Gillis has done. In his eyes, Vancouver is the team best suited to produce championship caliber seasons for years to come. That made his decision to remain with the Canucks until the 2021-2022 season an easy one.

Lui wants to win and he wants to win in Vancouver making this a win-win situation for both sides.

"I think we're all pushing towards the same thing, which is to win a cup. The management has obviously made that clear to the players and myself and in return we've all decided to stay and extend our careers in Vancouver.

"I'm really confident in our group, I think we could really accomplish some great things in the next few years."

Keeping Luongo in Vancouver long-term is Gillis' most impactful move as GM thus far, but it should come as no surprise that he got his man. Gillis recognizes how important Luongo is to the Canucks and he wasn't about to let the netminder head into a contract year without showing him that.

"Roberto Luongo is the leader of our hockey team; he is in the prime of his playing career and has a tremendous desire to make the Canucks a championship team," said Gillis, who personally visited Luongo in Montreal during contract talks. "His leadership, competitiveness and character are what this team will represent for many years to come."

That the Canucks have the potential to make it deep into the playoffs for the foreseeable future was Luongo's biggest factor to re-signing, but other aspects, such as the return of the Sedins, also played a part.

The core of the Vancouver team that won the Northwest Division before sweeping the St. Louis Blues and pushing the Chicago Blackhawks to the edge in the playoffs last season remains intact and Luongo is certain that the best is yet to come for the Canucks.

"I thought we had a team that could go all the way and unfortunately things didn't work out, but all you can ask for is a chance. Once you get in, it's anybody's game.

"We had a great group last year and a group that could do it, not many changes have been made since then and we've added a few pieces so there's no reason why we couldn't do it again this year."

External factors also played a part in Luongo's decision, the most important being that he had the support of his family. After all, the dedication that comes with a 12-year contract extension is not to be taken lightly.

"Before I made this commitment I wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page and everybody was happy with that and we didn't have any problems.

"We love the city of Vancouver, the organization has treated us real well since we got here and we're just thrilled and we're excited for the opportunity that we have coming forward here."

With Luongo in net, the possibilities are limitless as to how much success the Canucks can achieve.

The one-time Lester B. Pearson Award and Hart Memorial Trophy nominee, two-time Vezina candidate and four-time all-star is in the prime of his career at age 30 having won 115 of his 230 career wins over the last three seasons, during two of which he's led the Canucks to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

Luongo has eclipsed the 30-win mark for four straight years (three in Vancouver) setting a Canucks franchise record with 47 victories in 2006-07. Last season he established a franchise mark with nine shutouts, in addition to setting a new team record for the longest shutout sequence playing 242:36 without a goal against over four games.

With any luck those records are written in pencil. A healthy Luongo, free of distracting contract talks until his hair is gray, will certainly erase more than a few of them this upcoming season and beyond along the way to leading the Canucks to a championship.