They acquired him from Florida. The season prior to him being eligible to become an unrestricted free agent, they named him team captain. They signed him to a 12-year, $64 million contract. After losing game seven of the Stanley Cup finals a year ago and disappointing exit in the first round this year, the Vancouver Canucks now are facing the possibility of trading Roberto Luongo this off-season.
PENTICTON, BC. – Trying to trade him and being able to do it could prove to be quite challenging, and trying to make it a good hockey deal, even more so. Few teams will be looking for a goaltender this summer although some might have some level of interest in the veteran keeper. Columbus, Edmonton, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Florida and Chicago will likely all be seeking an upgrade in net and if Martin Brodeur chooses to retire, the New Jersey Devils can be added to that list.
Luongo, on the other hand, has a no-trade clause to his lucrative contract and while he recently mentioned that he would be willing to wave it if asked to do so by the Canucks, it doesn’t mean that he would accept to go just anywhere. Some locations where he might accept a trade to might include Tampa Bay and Florida, where his wife resides all year round. One would think that if Lou Lamoriello (New Jersey) or Stan Bowman (Chicago) came knocking, he would likely accept a trade to those locations, although it’s a long shot to think that the Canucks would dare risk trading him to the windy city.
Another important factor is the expected return from Mike Gillis and his team. Would they be looking at dumping him at all cost, even having to sweeten the pot with another player and/or a prospect or pick, in order to make it happen? Would the Canucks be willing to take on some salary in return? And last but not least, what team would be willing to take on the remaining 10 years of the 33 year old goaltender with an annual cap hit of $5.3 million and the $47 million in actual salary that comes with it? While it is likely that he would retire before the end of his contract, who would want to have Luongo dictate how long the team will have that cap hit hanging over their head regardless of performances?
For those teams likely looking to improve at that position, some of the most notable goaltenders scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this summer include Martin Brodeur, Tomas Vokoun, Josh Harding, Dan Ellis and Jonas Gustavsson, all of which would be cheaper than Luongo or at least, without having to be tied with the long term deal.
Other goaltenders might very well be available to teams looking for a goalie. Jonathan Bernier, Thomas Greiss and Jhonas Enroth are young tenders playing behind undisputed veterans and they may want a shot at a starters’ position somewhere. When the Blues traded for Jaroslav Halak with Montreal, they were not expecting Brian Elliott to play as well as he did and it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to think that one of them could be made available at the right price (no pun intended). In Boston, Tim Thomas has been a big distraction since his refusal to attend the White House with his teammates and his no-trade clause expires on July first. And what if the Calgary Flames decided to blow it up and truly rebuilt? There would be some serious interest in Miikka Kiprusoff.
So what makes sense?
First and foremost, please forget the crazy ideas of Luongo being traded to Montreal with the Habs turning around and trading Carey Price for a better return. It makes absolutely no sense.
I personally see a few scenarios:
- Tampa Bay: Steve Yzerman was involved with Team Canada at the last Olympics and won the Gold Medal with Luongo in net. The Lightning desperately need some major improvement at that position and on defense. I could see a package including Ryan Malone (assuming he waives his NMC) and something else in return of Luongo and a defenseman like Keith Ballard.
- Florida: Going back to where it all started is not out of the question, with new management in place and the team making great strides under Dale Tallon. The return might not be much however as the Panthers don’t have much to offer, but Jose Theodore would make a good duo with young Schneider in Vancouver. A factor working against a deal is Florida’s highly-touted prospect Jacob Markstrom.
- Columbus: The big question is to know if Luongo would waive his NTC to play there, but I would not underestimate the potential of seeing a deal between the two teams around Luongo and Rick Nash. Of course, more would have to head to Columbus and Mason Raymond and a defenseman are pretty solid options for the Jackets.
- Chicago: Those two teams have been bitter rivals for a few years now but they do make pretty good trade partners when it comes to assets. Corey Crawford could be heading to Vancouver, a good security blanket for the Canucks in case Schneider holds out on a new contract or if he falters a bit with his performances. But would the Canucks want to risk being eliminated by a motivated Luongo?
- Edmonton: Yes, this is out of left field and it is unlikely that the two rivals trade with each other. However, I’m not convinced that Devan Dubnyk can lead this team to the playoffs. Khabibulin has a year left to his contract and would be great with Schneider while a guy like Theo Peckham would add some sand paper to the Canucks defense. Having said that, I’d expect the Oilers to look at another option instead.
As we see, there are many factors involved and one would be much smarter than me to claim knowing what will be happening. One thing is for sure however, it should be a very interesting summer for Canucks’ fans in spite of the sorrow of yet, another disappointing exit.
En français: Chanson de Roberto? Wake me up before you Luongo-go