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Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Why Luongo's contract extension is the most significant of the summer


I can't think of a more significant signing this summer than Wednesday's 12-year contract extension between Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks.

Super-elite NHL netminders are like super-elite NFL quarterbacks -- there are only a handful of them, and teams spend years trying to land one.

So credit Canucks GM Mike Gillis for putting aside his personal preference of avoiding the kind of double-digit-term deals that have plagued the NHL the past few years; he made a rare exception because he knew he had no choice. If Luongo walked away as an unrestricted free agent in July, Gillis would spend the rest of his tenure as GM trying to replace the player, likely to no avail.

"If we were ever going to do [a long-term deal], this is the guy to do it with," Gillis told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "You look at the position and the fact that in all likelihood he's the best player at his position currently in the league. To purchase his prime time is something we had to do."

It's a deal worth $64 million with an average yearly salary-cap hit of $5.33 million. Here are the specifics of the deal:

2010-11 -- $10 million
2011-12 -- $6.716 million
2012-13 -- $6.714 million
2013-14 -- $6.714 million
2014-15 -- $6.714 million
2015-16 -- $6.714 million
2016-17 -- $6.714 million
2017-18 -- $6.714 million
2018-19 -- $3.382 million
2019-20 -- $1.618 million
2020-21 -- $1 million
2021-22 -- $1 million

Luongo's new deal doesn't kick in until 2010-11. He's entering the last year of a deal that pays him $7.5 million in 2009-10.

"I think both of us knew we were going get it done," Gillis said. "We had a meeting in Montreal a couple of weeks ago where we really got down to where we were and what we were doing. Both sides knew this deal would get done."

Not to rain on anyone's parade in Vancouver (because we know Canucks fans are absolutely thrilled to get their franchise goalie locked up for the rest of his career), but we must tell you the NHL is not impressed by this contract and we're led to believe the league will take a long, hard look at the deal before giving it its full blessing.

Luongo will turn 43 on April 4, 2022, enjoying the final days of the 12-year contract extension. That's why the league, at least at first blush, isn't terribly thrilled with the contract. Remember, the NHL gave a hard time to the Chicago Blackhawks (Marian Hossa) and the Philadelphia Flyers (Chris Pronger) about their respective deals.

The NHL has been warning GMs that the league will be watching these kinds of front-loaded, long-term contracts -- a warning that was expressly made again at the GMs' meetings in March in Florida -- to try to curb what some see as a loophole in the current collective bargaining agreement.

"We notified [the league] that we would be doing a deal with the structure similar to this," Gillis said. "We have a contract we're perfectly happy and comfortable with."