By Jim Morris, special to CBC Sports
VANCOUVER - Roberto Luongo has said his goodbyes to his Vancouver Canuck teammates and the city's NHL fans.
It's something the Canuck goaltender has done before, but this time he hopes it will be his final farewell. Luongo believes he will finally be traded this summer.
"I feel like I'm at a stage of my life where I want to play," Luongo said as the Canucks cleaned out their lockers after losing four straight games to the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
"Whether that's here or somewhere else, that remains to be seen. What's happened over the course of the last two years suggests that maybe it's not my place to be the starter here anymore. That being said, things change. Who knows."
Luongo has put his penthouse apartment in Vancouver's trendy Yaletown up for sale. The asking price for the 2,673-square-foot, two-bedroom condo with mountain and ocean view is $4.2 million.
The 34-year-old smiled, then shook his head when asked if he saw any scenario where he would be back with the Canucks in the fall.
"Not really," the Montreal native said. "I want to play. That's the bottom line."
Canuck general manager Mike Gillis, the man who has a big hand in Luongo's fate, made it clear the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist has probably played his last game as Canuck.
Gillis was asked during his season-ending address to the media if he thought Luongo would be back in Vancouver.
"I think it's unlikely," Gillis said.
One of the biggest obstacles in trading Luongo is the nine seasons left on a 12-year, $64-million US contract, making him a $5.33 million salary cap hit. Luongo also has a no-trade clause that allows him a say in where he is dealt.
Gillis came close to making a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the NHL trade deadline.
When that fell through Luongo said: "My contract sucks."
The GM remains confident he can make a deal over the summer, even with next year's salary cap dropping to $64.3 million from $70.2 million.
"I think if the lockout didn't occur we were well on our way to making a deal," Gillis said. "I think the landscape is going to be very different this summer.
"There is very little supply of players out there. I think there is going to be great opportunities as we move through the summer."
Growing list of teams?
Luongo hedged when asked he's willing to expand the list of potential teams he'd play for.
"We will see what happens," he said. "The main goal is to be the starter.
"That being said, there are other things that come into consideration. At the end of the day you have to think about the big picture and do what's best for everybody. I don't have that answer for you right now, and who knows what will happen in the next couple of months. We will have to come up with some sort of solution."
Luongo has more wins (233) and shutouts (35) than any goaltender in Canuck history. He took the team to within one game of winning the 2011 Stanley Cup.
The Olympic gold medallist lost his starting job during last year's playoffs. He was replaced by backup Cory Schneider after the Canucks lost the opening two games of their first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings would go on to eliminate the Canucks in five games.
When Vancouver signed the 27-year-old Schneider to a three-year, $12-million contract last June it became clear Luongo was expendable. Efforts to trade the veteran were hampered by his big-ticket contract and the NHL lockout. That resulted in the Canucks playing the shortened season with both goaltenders.
The two men managed to make a potentially toxic situation work. Luongo finished the season with a 9-6-3 record, 2.56 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.
A proud man, Luongo handled his demotion with class. He's always been supportive of Schneider and called the Canucks "Cory's team."
"We both want to play, that's the bottom line and there's only one net," Luongo said. "I think me and Schneids handled it well on a personal level.
"We didn't let it get in the way or our friendship or relationship. We were supportive of each other, we made it work. I think we did the best we could with what we had."
Luongo has been a lightening rod for criticism ever since arriving in Vancouver seven years ago in a trade from Florida. He's dealt with media scrutiny and the fickle Vancouver fans in a market famous for making goaltenders' lives difficult.
Cocky, even arrogant in the past, Luongo has shown maturity this year.
"A lot has happened," he said with a smile. "I did learn a lot. I think I'm a better person and athlete because of it."
Luongo was asked what message he would give Vancouver fans.
"I'd like to thank them for everything and apologize I wasn't able to bring them a Stanley Cup a few years ago," he said.Follow Jim Morris on Twitter @jememorris
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