Strombabble: Do the Recent Luongo Rumours Tell us Anything about Vancouver's Asking Price?

Thomas Drance
October 19 2012 11:38AM

 
Photo Credit: (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

There should be bigger fish to fry at this point in the NHL lockout, but for whatever shameless reason "Luongo to Toronto" rumours are the hot topic of today. Before we get started, let's remember that Mike Gillis can't chat with Roberto Luongo - who has the right to approve any trade he's involved in - during the lockout. As such this is a purely hypothetical exercise, as are the rumours being bandied about.

For a variety of reasons, Toronto has always made the most sense as a "Luongo destination," and I'm very dubious of the notion that these latest "reports" tell us anything new. But let's track down some scuttlebutt and engage in some skeptical analysis anyway. Read on past the jump.

Scuttlebutt Hunting

Let's produce a quick timeline documenting the reignition of Luongo to Toronto trade rumours this week.

Now lots of informed folks would point to John Shannon's "all but done" comment on Sportsnet and Doug MacLean's "Burke will make an unbelievable push for Luongo" follow up, as the first time they heard something linking Luongo to the Maple Leafs this week.

But I'd point to something else, something significantly sketchier: a message on the Canucks(dot)com (CDC) forums from a forum member who identified himself as a student at Windsor. In his message board post, he described a conversation he had with Richard Peddie - a former CEO of MLSE, and Windsor alum - after a seminar Peddie spoke at. This was posted on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Shannon and Maclean - who both work for Rogers Sportsnet, which is owned by the same folks who own Toronto's hockey team - made their "Luongo Toronto comments."

Now I'm not saying that John Shannon took his report from CDC or anything, I wouldn't know and I wouldn't accuse anyone of being that unscrupulous without hard proof. But as a general rule, when I hear media speculating about a rumour the day after I read the same rumour somewhere unreliable and deemed it to be silly and - well, my skepticisim is naturally heightened. Maybe this is a case of "where there's smoke there's fire," or maybe this is an example of everything that sucks about hockey media sometimes. Most likely: it's all just a coincidence.

Anyway, on Thursday, Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis appeared on the Team 1040 with Jason Botchford and while he pulled a Bill Clinton and quibbled with the definition of the word "close," the rest of his answer was a definitive denial:

"I'm not sure why John would say that because that's certainly not the case; but everyone is entitled to speculate on whatever they'd like to speculate on."

I guess Mr. Gillis didn't count on everyone who works in sports media in Toronto and Vancouver to take him up on his generous offer to speculate freely. Since Gillis' Team1040 appearance, we've had this from Jason Botchford (heavily edited because Botch brings up a lot that I want to discuss):

"Toronto was closest to a deal for Luongo at the draft, in a negotiation that included the Leafs offering Luke Schenn and the Canucks countering by asking for Jake Gardiner-plus-plus-plus...

[In September] Vancouver GM Mike Gillis said the Leafs had several assets which could get a trade for Luongo done...

Multiple Canucks sources played down the report, including Gillis. But they had reactions that needled more toward the category of non-denial denials...

Before negotiations with Florida went totally off the rails, the Canucks were chasing highly touted 6-foot-4 centre Nick Bjugstad. The Leafs closest comparable is probably 6-foot-5 centre Joe Colborne.

And this from Damien Cox (sticktap to Pension Plan Puppets): 

"At the draft, reports indicated Vancouver asked for centre Tyler Bozak, defenceman Jake Gardiner, a first-round pick and winger Matt Frattin in exchange for the 33-year-old Luongo. The Leafs had no interest in paying that kind of price, largely because there is no significant market for the services of the veteran goaltender.

So talks have continued on and off, with Bozak as the centrepiece."

So, let's review. A sketchy rumour about an imminent Luongo trade surfaced on the CDC message boards on Tuesday. Something eerily similar was then reported on Sportsnet on Wednesday. On Thursday Mike Gillis was asked about the report and explicitly repudiated it. Then on Thursday night and Friday morning, two well connected sports writers wrote columns recapping the discussions the two sides have had at various points over the past few months. 

You'll have to forgive me, but I don't see much of a "value add" in most of the reporting going on here. In fact, I tend to think this is exactly the sort of rumour that takes advantage of hockey's peculiar "Insider" culture, spreads like a disease and ultimately becomes legitimate through an unsourced media report.

For months the Leafs have made the most sense as a Luongo destination. That was true in June and it is still true this week. That the two teams have discussed a price point repeatedly and have probably even been "close" to making a deal isn't really new information. We knew this, didn't we?

The Price


Hard to see Jake Gardiner moving in any Luongo trade.

My skepticism aside, I think there is some new information here. Namely I find it interesting that Cox and Botch's reports by and large corroborate each other. Where Botchford says that the Canucks counter offer at the draft included "Gardiner-plus-plus-plus," Damien Cox does some rumour algebra, and produces three assets: a first round pick, Matt Frattin and Tyler Bozak. 

Of course, the corroboration only goes so far, and the writer writing for a Vancouver audience brought up super sized prospect Joe Colborne as a possible centre piece, while the writer writing for a Toronto audience claimed that the replacement level Tyler Bozak is the object of Vancouver's desire. But I think it's pretty likely that Botchford and Cox are both talking about the same Vancouver counter proposal, and I think it's probable that their sources on this are sound.

If you find that compelling as well, then we can infer a few things about what the Canucks want from Toronto in a return for Luongo. In terms of positional need, the Canucks are interested in acquiring a defenseman, a winger and a centreman and in terms of value they're looking for a lot: a top prospect, and two young roster players. 

The positional need aspect isn't all that surprising. Before the offseason began we identified Vancouver's needs as such: a third-line centre, a top-six winger and a top-four defenseman (preferably one who can play the right side). To address those needs the Canucks brought in Jason Garrison, a solid top-four defenseman on a reasonable contract, but also a guy who played most of his even-strength minutes on the left side last season. They haven't yet done anything to shore up their pivot depth, or their depth on the wings.

Now let's assume that Jake Gardiner is untouchable (because he should be, and Brian Burke isn't an idiot) and let's do the same with Nazem Kadri. Here are players the Leafs possess who could fill Vancouver's assorted needs:

Defenseman: Carl Gunnarsson, Korbinian Holzer (righty), Cody Franson (righty).

Centre: Tyler Bozak, Joe Colborne, David Steckel.

Wingers: Clark MacArthur, James Van Riemsdyk, Nikolai Kulmien, Matt Frattin, Joffery Lupul.

I think if you use some combination of those players, you can come up with something resembling a fair deal.

Leverage

The consensus in Toronto seems to be that Mike Gillis has no leverage (because of Luongo's contract, and the perception that there is no market for his services), while the consensus in Vancouver seems to be that Brian Burke is going to have to pay up for one of the NHL's best goaltenders and that there's pressure on him to do so because of the whole, you know, keeping his job thing.

I'd argue that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Burke is probably going to have to part with at least two - but maybe three - young players in any Luongo trade, and there will be significant pressure on him to pay up. I tend to believe that James Reimer can have a rebound season this year, but even assuming that happens, the Leafs aren't going anywhere with a Scrivens-Reimer tandem. Luongo could bring playoff games back to the centre of the universe.

Mike Gillis on the other hand, isn't going to get Kadri or Gardiner - and he's unlikely to get Joe Colborne without greasing the skids by either accepting a lesser player to fill one of Vancouver's other needs, or giving up on acquiring a non-player asset.

In summary, it seems unlikely that there's anything "new" going on in the discussions between the Leafs and the Canucks about a Luongo trade this week. As a result of some dubious rumours, I suspect however that we did learn a little bit more about Vancouver's asking price for Roberto Luongo.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 Daniel W.
October 19 2012, 12:16PM
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wouldn't Jay McClement kind of be a good Malhotra-type 3rd Line Center? They just signed him this summer, but I think he'd be able to fill that role pretty well!

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#3 RhysJ
October 19 2012, 01:12PM
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I could see Cody Franson being asked for. His unique combination of massive size and puck-moving ability make him a very desirable asset, even though he's not a very physical player by any stretch of the imagination. Also, HE PLAYED FOR THE GIANTS SEA-TO-SKY BONERRRRRR.

I can't see Gillis being hot and heavy after Bozak like Damien Cox seems to think. While Jordan Schroeder is an unproven commodity at the NHL level, he may make a Bozak addition redundant in very short order.

If Gillis can get Franson or Colborne or Kulemin plus another asset, I'll be more than happy.

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#4 Jordan_Clarke
October 19 2012, 01:14PM
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Bozak sure doesn't seem like an asset Gillis would be after.

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#5 Ginja Ninja
October 19 2012, 02:29PM
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If I were to guess, it looks like John Shannon got @Hockeyyinsiderr'd.

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#6 Curt S
October 19 2012, 03:49PM
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With regard to leverage, I think you're overestimating the pressure on Burke here. Gillis effectively HAS to move Luongo, one way or another. I'm not even sure Burke has to make the playoffs this year, and even if he does, there are other ways to skin that cat.

I may be wrong on this, but I would be very surprised if the Leafs sent a significant prospect and two young roster pieces to Vancouver for Luongo.

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#7 knoxdown
October 19 2012, 04:14PM
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Got a mention in a Drance article! Might have indirectly been called sketchy but that's okay!

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#9 Great piece,
October 19 2012, 04:54PM
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Good stuff, I hadn't seen the Cox info previously, so that was new.

I'm a Canuck fan, but I'm a little in shock if that is the asking price. 3 roster players? That's crazy stuff IMO. I remember in July the Sportsnet guys said the asking price was "roster player, prospect, 1st rounder". I think Luongo has a value close to, but under Nash. Nash got 2 quality roster players, top prospect, 1st round pick. I think Lu should get top prospect, 1 mid-level/quality roster player and a 1st rounder.

Quality over quantity Gillis. Canucks need a young centre who can make the roster this season (or next), and righty d-man and 1st rounder.I'd love to see Colborne, Blacker (righty) and a 1st. That's my dream.

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#10 knoxdown
October 19 2012, 05:20PM
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@Thomas Drance

I completely understand the skepticism . It was funny, I made that post completely expecting to be ripped apart by Canucks(dot)com members, but no one even mentioned the post. So you could see my surprise when I read this today. Anyways, long time fan! Keep up the great stuff!

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#11 Austin Wallacw
October 19 2012, 06:03PM
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@Thomas... I don't know if looking at CDC too often is good for your health... I know it is the offseason but try and resist being drawn into the bandwagoning, knowledgeably stupid, extremism that is the forum! It would be nice if you could still write and think coherent thoughts haha. @knoxdown, I can't say that I'd trust you a whole ton but it is a possibility and I am surprised that you didn't even get one quote! Maybe now you will haha.

I wonder how many writers/players read CDC...

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#12 knoxdown
October 19 2012, 08:38PM
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@Austin Wallacw

Yeah,

I am not a reporter by any means, just a hockey fan who had an opportunity. I will make sure to ask Burke why his team is out of a playoff position again when he visits in February. :D

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#13 GVBlackhawk
October 21 2012, 08:14PM
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Hi. I'm just wondering if anyone has done an article on the hypothetical trading of Schneider instead of Luongo?

From an outsider looking at your team, it seems like Schneider has much more trade value than Luongo. If the Canucks are looking to add impact players rather than depth (Dman, a center, and a winger), it makes more sense to trade the player with the most value, and retain the veteran (with the contract that handicaps Mike Gillis in a trade). Although Schneider appears to be tracking well, he is unproven as a starting goalie in the NHL. There is less risk in keeping Luongo, who has a proven track record in Vancouver.

It seems like management (and many fans) have emotionally divorced themselves from Luongo with the expectation that he is leaving. I would suggest that they reconsider their positions on the matter. My opinion is unbiased -- keep the 'reasonable' goalie and get an impact forward or defenseman.

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