Before Roberto Luongo ever became one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, he could have (and should have) been a member of the Calgary Flames.
Speaking on TSN 1040 radio in Vancouver on Wednesday, former Flames general manger Craig Button shared the details of a trade he wish he made at the NHL Draft in 2000.
“When I first took over in Calgary, Mike Milbury in Long Island was moving Roberto Luongo and he ended up trading him to Florida,” said Button, who is now a hockey analyst with TSN. “I could have traded Derek Morris for Roberto Luongo at that time.
“At the time, coming in, I felt like it was a situation where I really liked Derek Morris and I didn’t want to start manoeuvring around too much. But boy, I look back at that, especially with some of the goaltending challenges we had in Calgary at the outset, that would have been a real good move.”
Button became GM of the Flames in 2000, a position he held until 2003. Fred Brathwaite was Calgary’s starting goalie in Button’s first year as GM.
Luongo, just 21 years old at the time, was eventually dealt by the New York Islanders to the Florida Panthers in a regrettable decision by Milbury. The trade, which also saw Olli Jokinen head to Florida, returned just Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha.
The decision to trade Luongo was facilitated because Milbury wanted to draft Rick DiPietro first overall – passing over Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik to do so – also a regrettable decision.
Morris, just 21 at the time, was a good young defenceman thought to have a bright future on the Flames’ defence. He was coming off a 38-point season in his third year in Calgary, so you can understand why there was a reluctance to trade him.
Morris wound up playing 1107 NHL games, so he was certainly a serviceable player, but he never became a star. Button eventually traded him to Colorado two years after the potential Luongo deal.
Luongo, meanwhile, went on to become a perennial All-Star with the Panthers, before moving on to the Vancouver Canucks (and back to the Panthers). He’s currently fourth on the all-time goalie wins list behind only Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, and Ed Belfour.