The Roberto Luongo trade was one of the most impactful deals in Vancouver Canucks history, and we may have Mike Keenan to thank.
Former Canucks general manager Dave Nonis recounted the massive 2006 trade that saw Luongo and Todd Bertuzzi swap teams in the final episode of Scott Rintoul’s UNREEL: West Coast Express podcast.
The Canucks got Luongo, defenceman Lukas Krajicek, and a sixth-round draft pick from the Florida Panthers on June 23, 2006, in exchange for Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, Alex Auld, and a conditional pick. The trade turned out to be a steal for Vancouver.
“I’d talked to a lot of teams about moving Todd, and that was prior to the draft,” Nonis told host Rintoul on the podcast.
“I had a few deals on the table. They were… I’ll used the word adequate.
“There was some baggage with him, so the value for Todd Bertuzzi at that time was based on his current play, not based on what he could do.”
Bertuzzi was just two years removed from being suspended for his attack on Steve Moore, and needed a change of scenery. He scored 71 points (25-46-71) in 82 games in 2005-06, but was never the same after the suspension.
Luongo, on the other hand, couldn’t agree to a contract extension with the Panthers.
“I talked to every team in the league to see if whether there’d be some interest when I ultimately moved him to Florida,” said Nonis.
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Keenan offered Luongo
Perhaps Keenan was repenting for all of the previous pain he’d caused in Vancouver when he freely offered up Luongo.
Ironically, it was Keenan who first brought Bertuzzi to Vancouver in 1998 while he was head coach and acting general manager of the Canucks. That was another massive deal, one in which beloved former captain Trevor Linden was traded away to the New York Islanders.
That deal worked out for the Canucks, much like this subsequent deal involving Keenan, who at that point in 2006 was general manager of the Florida Panthers.
“I was walking the streets of Vancouver early, six in the morning, and I picked up a message that Mike had left me,” said Nonis. “As soon as I got to the point when he was going to be up and about I called him and asked: ‘do you have any interest in Todd Bertuzzi?'”
“Taking a step back, earlier in the year I called Mike because I heard that Roberto was not happy in Florida and was not going to sign. I had tried several times to trade for him and I was unsuccessful.
“But, at this point, when I asked Mike if he had interest in Todd Bertuzzi, I didn’t even ask for [Luongo] at that time. The first thing out of Mike’s mouth was ‘well I guess Roberto’s gotta be involved in that doesn’t he?’
“And I said “‘yep, you bet he does.'”
“So would I have traded him to Florida without getting Roberto? I would have, if the package was good enough.
“But, it was a situation where I’d shown enough interest during the year that Mike felt that’s what I was going to ask for, and he put him on the table.”
“I almost screwed that up”
Can you imagine if the Luongo trade fell apart because of a late-round draft pick?
That’s a legitimate fear that Nonis had prior to the deal being consummated.
“I almost screwed that up, asking for a pick on top of it,” Nonis said.
“After asking for it, I went ‘what did I just do? He might come back and say no to this whole thing!’
“I sat by the phone for several hours and he came back and said ‘okay, I’ll give you a pick’ and threw the pick in.”
The extra pick that Nonis acquired was a sixth-round selection in the 2006 draft, which was later used to select infamous training camp hero Sergei Shirokov. But the main thing was he got a future Hall of Fame goaltender.
“So I guess being greedy can bite you in the butt once in a while, but there we got a pretty good player,” Nonis said.
“He was one of the building blocks for that team for several years.”
Bertuzzi: “I wish I didn’t get traded”
“I knew for the team and for the city and for myself, it was something that had to be done,” Bertuzzi said, regarding his departure from Vancouver.
“I wish I didn’t ask for it, I wish I didn’t get traded, I really didn’t. I wish I would have been able to stick it out and all that but I thought there was just too much cloud over the situation, and they fetched a pretty good prize by bringing Roberto in.”
At the time, Bertuzzi was looking forward to reuniting with Keenan.
“He’s the one who kind of kickstarted my career in Vancouver and gave me a chance to succeed.
“To have a guy like him and his stature have your back, being able to have a relationship with Mike and play under Mike meant a lot for me.”
Ultimately, Bertuzzi played just seven games for the Panthers before suffering an injury and being traded to Detroit just eight months later at the 2007 trade deadline.
Luongo led the Canucks to the playoffs during six of his seven full seasons with the team, earning two Vezina Trophy nominations along the way.
Keenan meanwhile, resigned as general manager of the Panthers less than three months after trading Luongo to the Canucks.
Coming up on the FINAL EPISODE of UNREEL: West Coast Express, the end of an era for the #Canucks as the West Coast Express is dismantled after Todd Bertuzzi is traded to Florida.
Get caught up, listen and follow the podcast https://t.co/qmUHLggEKh pic.twitter.com/7MohxIN2Z5
— UNREEL Sports (@UNREELSPORTS_) March 22, 2023