September 25 2012 09:04AM
Though no trades can occur while the lockout is on going, Luongo rumours have persisted into late September. Who is in the running right now? Apparently Florida has dropped out, but Toronto, Chicago and the dreaded "Mystery Team" reamins "in"? Is that it, or are there more than three teams still in the running for Roberto Luongo?
This is from Jason Botchford yesterday. It's a very meaty column, and Botch is good at floating information between the lines, writing off record information without actually writing off record information:
If there is encouraging news for Luongo, it’s that before the CBA expired at least one mystery team, and maybe two, entered the Luongo sweepstakes. Team Mysterious wasn’t one of the ones that had previously been attached to a Luongo trade in rumours, so scratch Columbus off your list along with the obvious ones. [Province Sports]
Wait… "maybe two" mystery teams?
Botch goes on to speculate that this team is the Edmonton Oilers, and that makes sense to a degree.
I looked at teams that had starting goalie deficiencies last season. Edmonton's Devan Dubnyk was actually 12th among goalies who started more than half his teams' games in even strength save percentage, but he hasn't been around long enough to convince the world that he's for real.
The teams that were the most goalie-deficient, teams that didn't have one goalie start more than half the teams' games above replacement-level, were: Columbus, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, and the New York Islanders.
The Lightning we can write off (for now). Steve Yzerman picked up some goaltending talent this offseason, but he was finding it on the cheap: directing his attention towards options like Anders Lindback and his own minor league properties to improve on the Mathieu Garon-Dwayne Roloson disaster from last season. The New Jersey Devils have Martin Brodeur for two more seasons, and no sane person would wave a no-trade clause to go to Columbus. That leaves but one logical option (and I use the word "logical option" loosely here) on the table:
The New York Islanders
Let's rewind here for a second, because none of this makes sense.
The Islanders still have Rick DiPietro locked up through 2021, so taking on Luongo's contract through 2022 is nothing short of madness. That said, this is the same management group that bought out Alexei Yashin's contract after the previous CBA allowed them to: He's still on the books until 2015.
One thing about DiPietro is that he isn't particularly good, even when healthy, and the surprising thing about the Islanders is that they've built a good collection of young forwards through the draft and unlike a certain Northwest Division rival, have surrounded them with some good talent: Frans Nielsen, Matt Moulson, Brad Boyes. At 18th in the NHL in Fenwick Close last season, I think an elite goaltender would propel them over the top.
For a second, let's speculate that the Islanders could be a mystery team crazy-enough to pull this off, and acquire the goaltender they originally drafted back in 1997. A Luongo trade, followed by an immediate buyout of DiPietro's contract during a theoretical amnesty period, ties up a lot of money into a few players who won't play for the team. But this is made possible by the cheap talent that Garth Snow has stockpiled over the last few seasons.
What would it cost? Well, if Mike Gillis wants assets, and he wants a forward and a defenceman, maybe with size, I think one option could be Nino Neiderreiter, who may or may not fit into the picture in Long Island. He had a very rough rookie season and bled minutes, averaging just 10:07 per game, not being used in every situation and somehow lighting the lamp just once on the 74 shots he took.
Niederreiter had a -7.2 Corsi ON/60 rate against weak competition, but to be fair to the guy, a] he was a rookie, b] his most common teammate was Marty Reasoner, whose Corsi ON/60 rate was a worse -10.72, and c] he bounced in and out of the lineup at random. He's 6'2", 205, was a scoring giant in junior and I think a good piece to centre any Luongo deal around. I wouldn't be surprised if the Islanders had some casual interest in Luongo, but while we're speaking about defencemen, it may cost that team Andrew MacDonald as well, the team's tough-minutes leader from last season, or Mark Streit who the Canucks reportedly pursued at the trade deadline last February.
The Edmonton Oilers
Roberto Luongo apparently grew up an Oilers fan, idolizing Grant Fuhr. But dealing with Edmonton is a risky proposition.
On one hand, Steve Tambellini is the man that traded Erik Cole for Patrick O'Sullivan, and Patrick O'Sullivan for Jim Vandermeer.
On the other, this is a sneaky group. Like when they had paid mouthpieces convincing everybody they wanted a defenceman and were very, very serious about taking Ryan Murray or Griffin Reinhardt at the draft ahead of the opening of the Justin Schutlz sweepstakes. They are also playing poker with the City of Edmonton, threatening re-location from one of hockey's best markets to save a few million bucks on an arena. Or something.
Either way, it would be an interesting trade. Like a potential trade with Chicago, Luongo sticks with a familiar opponent. Unlike a potential trade with Chicago, this doesn't automatically make Edmonton world-beaters.
Edmonton was 24th in the league in Fenwick Close last season, but middle of the pack in even strength goaltending surprisingly. A move to "above average" saves the team maybe one or two wins a season. With Devan Dubnyk, who posted a .927 last season, and a .920 in a career in a system that maybe cost him 1 or 2 EV SV% points, I think I'm willing to say he's not perfect, but he's a good enough option going forward.
But anyway, let's speculate. Discussing a potential Oilers last night, Thom was partial to Magnus Paajarvi, but I think that Sam Gagner's numbers look better. Gagner is also an option at centre. He took 701 draws last year, although just a 47.6% rate, you could move him to wing on the second and third line and as an insurance option on draws. He's under contract for a season and goes to RFA status next year, so nearly risk-free, and he put up very good possession numbers last season, a 6.3 Relative Corsi against tough competition, similar to what Mason Raymond faced last year.
The difference is that Gagner had a plus Corsi Rel in those minutes, and has scored 18.9 goals per 82 games over the last two seasons compared to Raymond's 16.4. His career shooting rate of 10.3% beats out Raymond's of 9.2%, making him a more obvious powerplay threat. He is slightly more expensive, but that is probably because he's a slightly better hockey player.
As for the defence, well, perhaps the crazy signing of Justin Schultz makes Jeff Petry available? Perhaps a prospect such as Oscar Klefbom or David Musil?
The Toronto Maple Leafs
Given the mutual stubbornness of both Mike Gillis and Brian Burke, I don't envision this trade going down. While the Leafs seem like the perfect candidate to pick up Luongo given their historic track record with goaltending, they just don't have the disposable pieces. In other words, in no one area are the Leafs dealing from a position of strength.
The players that I do like, despite disagreeing with their availability, are Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin who have both seen scoring success while flanking Toronto's best centreman, Mikhail Grabovski for the better part of two seasons. Kulemin is the player I know the best but the Cliff's version is that his defensive upside makes up for his offensive inefficiencies as a second-liner. I think he could play that hybrid wing role between the second and third line, sort of like Jannik Hansen, and score between 15 and 20 goals while helping the team stay positive against toughs. He makes sense as the forward.
On defence, it's less cut-and-dry. If Burke is willing to part with the young Jake Gardiner, that's probably all Gillis gets in return, and having had just a 75-game career there's so little we know about Gardiner. The other options are Carl Gunnarsson, who played with Dion Phaneuf this past season on the team's top pairing or the underutilized Cody Franson (who probably makes more sense considering his right handed shot). Gunnarsson's a decent puck-mover who can log big minutes and fits anywhere you put him in the lineup, while Franson could, in a pinch, play a sheltered top-four role caddying with Edler for the twins. But again, would Burke be willing to give up one of his three defencemen under the age of 26 who are any good?
The Chicago Blackhawks
It's David Bolland. Did you get that memo?