Luongo and the Dwindling Veteran Goaltender Market

Thomas Drance
June 04 2012 03:20PM

Roberto Luongo, he of the immovable contract and the world's best athlete Twitter account, is probably never going to fetch the Canucks much more than cap-relief and a couple of low-value lottery tickets in a trade. About a month ago, James Mirtle compellingly characterized the Luongo market as bearish:

Consider that Luongo has a no-trade clause, which he can use to land in a particular destination or two if he chooses. Dumping him in a market that has little chance for immediate success may not be an option. For another, that contract mitigates his value considerably, as the remaining 10 years at a $5.33-million cap hit will come with some risk given the new collective bargaining agreement is on its way this fall.

I don't need to tell Canucks fans that there are a litany complicating factors in any potential Luongo deal, and anyway, Gillis' repeated denials on the subject speak volumes. We at CanucksArmy still think Luongo will be moved at the draft, the team incurs too great an opportunity cost on the "re-signing Cory Schneider long-term" front if they don't find a home for their well compensated, greasily coiffed goaler. Luckily for Gillis In recent weeks the market for "available veteran goaltenders" has withered, and that's a shift in Gillis' favour. Let's take a look.

Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas has decided to take a one year sabbatical, announcing over the weekend that he won't play NHL hockey next season. Only a year removed from putting the finishing touches on the greatest goaltending season in the history of the National Hockey League, Tim Thomas will take his talents to Colorado, and his couch, for the duration of next season... Or will he?

David Shoalts had a good take today in which he theorized that Thomas' "sabbatical" is a feint, and a way for the veteran goaltender to add a defacto no-trade clause onto his contract. Now Chiarelli and the Bruins will be forced to suspend Thomas, should he fail to report to training camp in the fall (or winter, realistically), and deal with his five million dollar cap-hit which, stays on the books because it's a "35+" deal. 

Whatever the truth may be, it was likely that Thomas would be moved this offseason anyway, as Boston has a capable young netminder in Tuukka Rask waiting in the wings and in need of a raise. Thomas' year off of hockey removed a thirty-eight year old goaltender who can still hack it from the trade market for the forseeable future, and indisputably that plays into Gillis' hand.

Miikka Kiprusoff

That the Flames are in desperate need of a rebuild is a truism. Everyone seems to know it, except for Flames management. It was thought that this summer the Flames would get serious about building for the future, and jettison their big ticket items who still have value (Iginla, Bouwmeester and Kiprusoff) in exchange for draft picks, prospects and other attractive futures.

The signing of Bob "rebuild isn't in their vocabulary" Hartley put an end to that speculation. The Flames are, once again, going to try and sneak their aging core into the postseason in the rapidly improving Western Conference - and they're going to try to do it without spending to the cap this season, apparently.

The scuttlebutt out of Calgary today, is that the Flames are looking to spend 15 million dollars less than the estimated cap-dollar of 70 million on player salaries this upcoming season. That the Flames may look to shed salary could lead to a guy like Kiprusoff being made available, but, word is that the Flames would probably prefer to part with Jay Bouwmeester.

Jay Bouwmeester performed really well in some of the most difficult circumstances in the entire league last season. Kiprusoff, on the other hand, had seen his performance decline steadily for several seasons before he put together a fine, bounce-back campaign in 2011-12. Frankly, this seems like a weird decision.

What it comes down to, I think, is that Kiprusoff remains a lionized commodity among Flames fans, whereas Bouwmeester has never been able to shake the "free agent signing who disappointed" label. I suppose if you're cutting costs, and hoping to keep fans interested: better to trade the less popular player, even if he's more valuable on the ice. I'm convinced that winning sells better than personality, so this wouldn't be my approach, but the Flames do a lot of things that leave me shaking my head.

This situation is probably fluid, and the notion that the Flames may look to move Bouwmeester (and keep Iginla and Kiprusoff) at the draft remains a rumour. Nonetheless, the way things look to be shaping up in Calgary, the Flames seem highly unlikely to sell their stalwart Finnish netminder this summer. You can almost hear the "veteran goalkeeper options" atrophying further for teams like Tampa, Toronto, Chicago, Columbus, and possibly Florida.

Tomas Vokoun

Going into this offseason, no one had really dwelt on Pittsburgh's need for a veteran goaltender. Marc-Andre Fleury has been sub-average for years (except in the shootout, which he's spectacular at) with little notice being paid. That all changed when the Penguins goaltender got his doors blown right the fuck off in the team's high-scoring first round series against Philadelphia. 

Today Ray Shero moved quickly and economically to address his team's need - adding Tomas Vokoun in exchange for a 7th round pick and quickly signing him to a two year deal worth 4 million dollars. Vokoun was, apparently, allowed to shop his services to other teams as well as Pittsburgh, but none thought him worth a 7th round pick. Vokoun is coming off of an awful season, is getting old (35), and while his numbers over the past half decade are spectacular - Florida's score-keepers tend to inflate shot totals, so they should be viewed with a grain of salt.

Despite some concerns, it seems odd that exchanging a 7th rounder for Vokoun's rights was too rich for the blood of several NHL general managers. Could the meagre return that Washington netted for the rights to Vokoun auger poorly for Luongo's trade value? Maybe, but I don't think so. Luongo's younger (33), under contract (even if that contract does mitigate a lot of his value) and is coming off of another strong season - so making analogies between the two situations is a stretch.

Vokoun was destined for unrestricted free-agency on July 1st, and his presence on the market would have provided teams that may be interested in Luongo, with a significantly cheaper alternative. Vokoun clearly isn't the netminder Luongo is, but for 3.3 million dollar less per season, you could do an awful lot worse.

With Thomas taking the year off in Elba Island presumably, Kiprusoff likely to continue to help the Flames tread water in Calgary, and Vokoun landing with the Penguins - a team that would never have been in on Luongo in the first place - the clubs in need of answers in net are reduced to sifting through names like Josh Harding, and Jonas Gustavsson and Johan Hedberg on the high-end. While the developments in the goaltending market over the past ten days aren't likely to result in a Luongo trade all of a sudden netting the Canucks a top-5 pick, or a useful, cheap young roster player: a market that was recently seen as saturated, is looking mighty dry this afternoon. That's great news for Gillis.

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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 Brett Mitchell
June 04 2012, 04:55PM
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I don't think other teams wouldn't offer more than a 7th, but Vokoun may have gotten his options (contract offers) in order, then decided on a team, limiting his return. Just a hunch... Pittsburgh is a real nice play to play for a clearly above-average goalie.

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#2 Brett
June 04 2012, 04:56PM
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Place to play*

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#3 Chri$
June 04 2012, 06:05PM
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"Vokoun is coming off of an awful season, is getting old (35), and while his numbers over the past half decade are spectacular - Florida's score-keepers tend to inflate shot totals, so they should be viewed with a grain of salt."

Vokoun wasnt that bad. Early in the year he was terrific, but a couple weeks before the Caps fired Boudreau he started to play worse. Then he got injured after his crappy play (and the crappy play of the Caps). In any case, his SV% was .916 this year, so he can certainly still be a terrific backup

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#4 Gary L
June 04 2012, 06:06PM
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I know that it doesnt look like the Flames are dealing Kiprusoff, but I still get the feeling that they will. Kiprusoff's NMC is gone after July 1, so if a team gives them a really good offer, they might be forced to trade him.

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#5 Dom
June 05 2012, 07:05AM
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It might be too ballsy of a play, but I think the best spot for Luongo (or Schneider) is Edmonton for one of their big 4 (Hall, Eberle, RNH, 1st Overall).

Goaltending becomes a position of strength for the Oil and the Canucks get a young top-tier player for their 2nd line to build around for the next 7-10 years.

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#6 Mantastic
June 05 2012, 11:36AM
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lol, luongo for Hall, Nail, Ebs or RNH. wow... most unrealistic trade proposal ever.

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