Luong Time Coming: Luongo traded to Panthers

Thomas Drance
March 04 2014 02:56PM


It took two years of controversy, countless false alarms, another high-end goalie being traded, an emotional press conference at the 2013 NHL trade deadline, and a complete fanbase meltdown at BC Place this past weekend. But finally, mercifully, Roberto Luongo has been re-assigned to Vancouver's Eastern Conference affiliate traded to the Florida Panthers.

Luongo has confirmed the deal and even tweeted out an emoticon of a palm tree. Obviously he's excited about going home. 

Coming back to Vancouver is a package that includes Jacob Markstrom - who Eddie Lack used to backup in Brynas - and probably forward Shawn Matthias. The Vancouver Canucks are reportedly, and unsurprisingly, retaining a portion of Luongo's salary in the transaction supposedly 15% or 800,000. You have to retain an equal proportion of both salary and cap-hit under the league's retained salary transaction provisions so, yeah. Also the Canucks are sending Stephen Anthony to Florida. He's not a prospect and that's just a book keeping part of the deal.

Click past the jump for more.

First we have to touch on Luongo himself, because this is an emotional day for most Canucks fans. During the entirety of his Canucks tenure Luongo was a super-elite goaltender and was good enough every season to carry a bad team to the playoffs (which is something the Canucks only occassionally were). 

By my personal odd standard of evaluating netminders - I care about a netminder posting an elite even-strength save percentage year-after-year above all - Luongo was the best or the second best netminder in the NHL (besides Henrik Lundqvist) throughout his time as a Canuck. 

Luongo captained the Canucks for a few years, he led them to six playoff series victories and to a Stanley Cup Final. Most memorably he won a gold medal starting for Team Canada when the Olympics were hosted by Vancouver in 2010. Despite his track record, he was probably the most polarizing star in franchise history and this is a franchise that arguably retired Pavel Bure's number a decade too late, so that's saying something...

It's tough to figure out what Luongo's legacy will be in the final analysis. There's significant baggage on the negative side of the ledger, after all, from the playoff collapses to the two-year trade saga (which Luongo reportedly played a part in exacerbating at the 2012 NHL draft). But that Luongo is unrivaled as the greatest netminder in the history of the Canucks franchise should be beyond question. 

Maybe a decade or two from now the franchise will figure out a way to honour him appropriately, if he lets them. No one would blame him if he wanted no part of it, however.

Onto the trade. The Canucks get Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom who are relatively young and somewhat promising. Matthias is big and decent but not a consistent top-six forward. Markstrom has been consistent and stellar in the AHL, but his high level of performance in San Antonio hasn't translated at the NHL level where he's struggled enormously. Will he figure it out? Who knows.

The real benefit to the Canucks is that they get out from under Luongo's "immovable" lifetime contract. Yeah there's a ticking time bomb waiting for them as a result of the "Luongo rule" or cap-benefit recapture penalty, but that's for another day (and probably another management regime) to worry about. The cap might be at 90+ million by then anyway.

All things considered the Canucks did alright with this deal, I figure. Matthias and Markstrom are decent, inexpensive, relatively young assets and the team is eating only 800,000 of Luongo's contract. That's certainly inconvenient but it isn't too painful - especially with the upper limit of the salary cap expected to rise going forward. Think of it this way: it's just the cost of one Tom Sestito! 

But that cheery summary is just us looking at the deal in a vacuum, and this saga has gone on for way to long for today's trade to be analyzed that way.

The fact is, this was a reactive move. It was likely a move borne out of necessity and desperation after the circus that was this past weekend's Heritage Classic. A number of forces have contributed to what went down in Vancouver's crease over the past year: the lockout, a reigned in salary cap, the vindictive cap benefit recapture clause. Also you might add ownership's clear and complete unwillingness to use a compliance buyout to get out from under Luongo's deal last summer. Anyway that's a quick list of contributing outside factors that were beyond management's control, y'know, for the sake of fairness.

Let's recap how we got here. You may remember that the team first began the long process of alienating Luongo by starting Cory Schneider against the Kings in April of 2012. Schneider had posted a better save percentage than Luongo had for two years running by that point, and from a hockey perspective it wasn't an absurd move. But it led to Luongo asking out of Vancouver, and it diminished Vancouver's leverage. Basically they'd revealed their hand on the most public of stages.

At the 2012 NHL draft and throughout that subsequent summer, the Canucks were unable to move Luongo and his massive deal. There were no takers, and anyway Luongo was steering the bus to Sunrise exclusively, which was fully within his rights as he had a no-trade clause. 

By the time the new CBA was ratified, Vancouver's goose was cooked on this front. There was no moving Luongo in a cap-benefit recapture environment and with the salary cap's upper limit due to recede to $64.3 illion this season. Not without retaining salary at least, (which Vancouver was unwilling to do until this past weekend apparently). They literally couldn't give him away, as they proved at last year's trade deadline.

At the 2013 NHL entry draft the Canucks changed course at the last moment when they finally read the writing on the wall. Unable to find a serious offer for Luongo, they traded Cory Schneider instead for the 9th overall pick. They used it to select Bo Horvat who is having a monster year for London. 

That trade, in a vacuum, was a good one. In fact one could argue - and Tyler Dellow has convincingly - that the Canucks recouped fair value for Schneider's services. The Canucks made like Churchill's conception of America and made the right move - they dealt the comparable goaltender with way higher trade value - but they did so only after exhausting all other options.

The problem with that deal is the same problem with the Luongo deal today: this is a management team that throughout this process has appeared to be flying by the seat of their pants, reacting rather than anticipating a shifting landscape. 

Trading Schneider for a prospect like Horvat was the right move, had it been made a year earlier. But by the time Schneider was moved, Luongo was so fully alienated that he didn't talk to the press all summer and changed agents. This "getting back together" thing was never going to work after what Luongo had been through. It cost Vancouver not one, but two excellent NHL goaltenders.

This all brings us to this season, where Luongo was outperformed once again by his backup (for the fourth straight year), culminating in the Heritage Classic kerfuffle. I'd reiterate that I don't think the Canucks have done that poorly with this trade, in a vacuum. But when you step back and look at the forest rather than the trees, the breadth and the extent to which this process was marked by failures to anticipate - the market, the new CBA, Luongo's emotional state - it's pretty galling. 

This is a tough day for Canucks fans, and a tough day for a management team that has turned what was one of the best tandems in the NHL into an unproven one. In the process they added a third-liner and a two-way ace (in the OHL). Not exactly an enviable haul, that.

But at least it's a good day for Luongo, who gets to move on. And actually when you factor in the cathartic element, the relief of closure that this trade brings, maybe it's a good day for the organization and its fans too in a sense. But it sure doesn't look or feel that way at the moment.

3136ae487fac57943f99a50e66e4d6cf
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 NM00
March 04 2014, 03:01PM
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I guess the next shoe to drop is getting back Cory Schneider for Bo Horvat...

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#2 Ruprecht
March 04 2014, 03:04PM
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Ha! Called it.

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#3 Lando Calrissian
March 04 2014, 03:16PM
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This seems like a dubious return. Someone tell me that's not the case.

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#4 Boring John
March 04 2014, 03:18PM
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As a non-Canucks fan, I am enjoying sitting on the sidelines and laughing at this franchise's ongoing misery.

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#5 NM00
March 04 2014, 03:21PM
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So if the organization was willing to retain salary and accept a middling return on Luongo, why was Cory Schneider traded?

#firegillis

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#6 van
March 04 2014, 03:22PM
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We should get Reimer to play with Lack. This deal amounts to pretty much giving him away. $1m retained salary, $1.75m 4th liner and an AHL goalie.

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#7 ?
March 04 2014, 03:23PM
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… If I were a Canucks fan I'd be pissed. As a Flames fan though, I'm quite enjoying myself.

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#8 FireGillis
March 04 2014, 03:26PM
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Shameful the way gillis and Co treated Lou. Hopefully now he will get the respect he deserves in florida.

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#9 andyg
March 04 2014, 03:28PM
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@NM00

You can't change the past why hash it over.

Lets just hope they have learned and don't wait on Kess. One more injury and he will be worthless.I would sit him for tonight.

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#10 RobG
March 04 2014, 03:28PM
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I called it when Eddie lack started the Heritage Classic on Sunday. They didn't play Luongo because they didn't want him to get hurt.

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#11 andyg
March 04 2014, 03:32PM
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@NM00

look to the owners and ask that one.

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#12 ForShame
March 04 2014, 03:33PM
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The'nucks were so close only a couple of years ago.

Now it all seems to be falling apart from the back up players to the general manager. This franchise is dying an ugly death.

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#13 Jordan.
March 04 2014, 03:36PM
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Luongo is a top three Canuck ever and by far the best goalie in our history. Hell of a run, Lu. Thanks for the saves.

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#14 Alsker
March 04 2014, 03:40PM
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3 more years @ 6.7M salary, the last 4 years total barely equal any one of those years...lol...and who's on the hook for the cap hit should he retire? Suck it Vancity...5.83M caphit is yours!!!!! And I thought our (E-town) management blew(actually it does)but this is just epic. Please,please, don't fire Gillis, he may just be the best thing to happen to NHL hockey in Alberta in a long time.

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#15 VK63
March 04 2014, 03:42PM
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WOW.

If any of the rumoured returns from the past two years were legit. I am stunned at the lack of return. Especially given that Aquilini is still paying a portion of Lou's cheques.

Amazing.

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#16 van
March 04 2014, 03:42PM
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Does this mean we can trade Booth?

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#17 Rusty
March 04 2014, 03:51PM
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? wrote:

… If I were a Canucks fan I'd be pissed. As a Flames fan though, I'm quite enjoying myself.

Dear Flames fan. As terrible as our Nucks have been ruined this past 2 years, we still have your organization to laugh at.

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#18 Trevor
March 04 2014, 03:56PM
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I am in no way condoning this trade but I have to ask; why is everyone so stunned at the low return? If I recall correctly people thought Gillis was asking for the moon last summer and laughed at the idea of getting anything but pennies on the dollar.

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#19 Bob Cob
March 04 2014, 04:02PM
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One word to learn Canucks fans: Re-build, the sisters are getting old and the goaltending stinks, consider the Canucks window closed, latched and barred. One question: Is Tim Thomas finally going to pump Luongo's tires?

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#20 argoleas
March 04 2014, 04:05PM
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Bob Cob wrote:

One word to learn Canucks fans: Re-build, the sisters are getting old and the goaltending stinks, consider the Canucks window closed, latched and barred. One question: Is Tim Thomas finally going to pump Luongo's tires?

Well, nothing wrong with facing facts and going for a rebuild. Looking forward to more moves.

Sisters? Really? Dude, grow up.

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#21 van
March 04 2014, 04:08PM
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"Matthias is big and decent but not a consistent top-six forward" What does this mean? 4th liner, no?

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#22 Cale
March 04 2014, 04:09PM
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van wrote:

Does this mean we can trade Booth?

Anything's possible, now.

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#23 Alsker
March 04 2014, 04:11PM
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? wrote:

… If I were a Canucks fan I'd be pissed. As a Flames fan though, I'm quite enjoying myself.

One of the few times as an Oilers fan I am in 100% agreement with my brother from down south.

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#24 ?
March 04 2014, 04:16PM
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Alsker wrote:

One of the few times as an Oilers fan I am in 100% agreement with my brother from down south.

Doesn't it feel great laughing at others' misery for a change?

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#25 vapemaster69
March 04 2014, 04:16PM
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Didn't this all happen because of Luongo's ego? Wasn't management's hand forced because Luongo realized Schneider was better and couldn't handle it? And made it public so that every team knew it?

Compare this to Kesler's emphatic denials of his trade request a few days ago. He realizes management has to actually make the deal, and other GMs leveraging his public dissatisfaction helps nothing.

Obviously nothing about this is ideal, and of course it was a gigantic mess. But this isn't a terrible ending, because Bo Horvat. There's potential for him to become a player that would be impossible to acquire otherwise. That's where I'm hanging my hat going forward.

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#26 Jamie E
March 04 2014, 04:16PM
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I'm totally fine with this. Would have been nice to sneak a 2nd or 3rd round pick into the mix, but what the heck are people expecting. Nice stable of young goalies and a useful big body for the bottom six. Nothing like the people who say blow it up whining about the results.

You wanted bold moves Canucks fans? This was one.

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#27 Senrik Hedin
March 04 2014, 04:17PM
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why is this a low return? just a year ago, markstrom was the best goalie not in the nhl. now all of a sudden, he's crap? we all love luongo but i can see this deal working out very favorably for the canucks.

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#28 Sir Qautorze
March 04 2014, 04:18PM
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On the bright side, Shawn Matthias seems to be the 3rd line centre Gillis has been obsessed with finding ever since Malhotra went down, Maybe now he can move onto more important things like finding players that can score.

Hopefully this means he won't trade Kesler for Sutter.

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#29 Alsker
March 04 2014, 04:22PM
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c/o Clyde Frog..

Let's not forget that Matthias is a pending UFA....

So the Canucks picked up a prospect and a suspect and a 3rd line rental with 14 points for their two starting goalies...

Lololololololol

Says it all!!!

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#30 Alsker
March 04 2014, 04:25PM
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? wrote:

Doesn't it feel great laughing at others' misery for a change?

Misery definitely loves company!!!

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#31 KleptoKlown
March 04 2014, 04:31PM
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Am I the only one who doesn't see this as a bad trade? Yeah, the retained salary sucks, but we can thank the new CBA for that.

Matthais is a big upgrade over Richardson as a 3rd line C. Booth and Kassian have shown some good chemistry together, and add Matthais between them, and this could be a legitimate 3rd line. Richardson going down a line improves the 4th line as well.

Markstrom was a highly touted prospect at one 1 time, and was just named AHL goalie of the month. Him and Lack are buddies from what I gather, and the 2 of them competing for the #1 job could provide some excellent goal tending.

Things are not as bleak in Canucksland as you cOiler and Lames fans would like to think.

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#32 EddyBeers
March 04 2014, 04:33PM
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Get back in your closets canuckle heads. Enjoy the rebuild!!!

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#33 KleptoKlown
March 04 2014, 04:36PM
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Alsker wrote:

Misery definitely loves company!!!

Guess that's why cOiler and Lames fans are together. 2 jokes of franchises competing for a high draft pick...again.

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#34 NM00
March 04 2014, 04:38PM
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Jamie E wrote:

I'm totally fine with this. Would have been nice to sneak a 2nd or 3rd round pick into the mix, but what the heck are people expecting. Nice stable of young goalies and a useful big body for the bottom six. Nothing like the people who say blow it up whining about the results.

You wanted bold moves Canucks fans? This was one.

Canuck fans didn't want bold moves of the "make Luongo captain!" and "make Sundin the highest paid player in the league!" variety...

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#35 Alsker
March 04 2014, 04:38PM
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@KleptoKlown

Its that type of optimism that has led Oilersville to the point we are at...good luck, you'll need it!!!

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#36 5minutesinthebox
March 04 2014, 04:40PM
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Jamie E wrote:

I'm totally fine with this. Would have been nice to sneak a 2nd or 3rd round pick into the mix, but what the heck are people expecting. Nice stable of young goalies and a useful big body for the bottom six. Nothing like the people who say blow it up whining about the results.

You wanted bold moves Canucks fans? This was one.

Im with you...the ablatross that was created is gone creating cap space and relief, we get a young physical forward (who has 9g 7a playing on Florida), and a young tender who to add to the lack of depth in the system (we know Rollies ability to help a goalies game progress).

More importantly, the drama that accompanied Luongo and his situation here is gone. We can actually start to move forward.

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#37 NM00
March 04 2014, 04:42PM
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andyg wrote:

You can't change the past why hash it over.

Lets just hope they have learned and don't wait on Kess. One more injury and he will be worthless.I would sit him for tonight.

"Hindsight is 20/20".

Fixed.

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#38 NM00
March 04 2014, 04:43PM
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@5minutesinthebox

"the ablatross that was created is gone creating cap space and relief"

False.

The Canucks will be be on the hook for Lou, both in terms of retained salary and cap recapture down the road, for a LONG time.

#capwizardry

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#39 GeezMoney
March 04 2014, 04:47PM
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What's with all these douchey Alberta fans coming in here and acting... we crummy like Alberta?

Anyway, this is a good trade for all parties involved... except for Mike Gillis.

That it took this long, that they got this as a return and that Alberta fans feel brave enough to come here and be douchey is probably indictment enough on Gillis' job as a GM. Time for the agent to go back to his day job.

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#40 Zarny
March 04 2014, 04:47PM
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I was going to comment on the Luongo trade when it was first announced but it took me an hour or so to pick myself up off the floor from laughing so hard.

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#41 GeezMoney
March 04 2014, 04:50PM
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Alsker wrote:

c/o Clyde Frog..

Let's not forget that Matthias is a pending UFA....

So the Canucks picked up a prospect and a suspect and a 3rd line rental with 14 points for their two starting goalies...

Lololololololol

Says it all!!!

I know! Looks like a couple of trades out of the City of Chumps.

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#42 KleptoKlown
March 04 2014, 04:52PM
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@Alsker

The cOilers have taken "pathetic" to a whole new level. What's it been, 8years since the playoffs? After this season, the cOilers will have had what, 4 lottery picks?

I don't think it's possible for any professional team in any sport to be that pathetic.

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#43 Mantastic
March 04 2014, 04:54PM
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@KleptoKlown

said by a fan of a franchise which has done what? and this trade is make you guys competing for the same high draft pick.

people living in glass houses...

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#44 Mantastic
March 04 2014, 04:54PM
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KleptoKlown wrote:

The cOilers have taken "pathetic" to a whole new level. What's it been, 8years since the playoffs? After this season, the cOilers will have had what, 4 lottery picks?

I don't think it's possible for any professional team in any sport to be that pathetic.

42 years and counting.

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#45 Zarny
March 04 2014, 04:56PM
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KleptoKlown wrote:

Am I the only one who doesn't see this as a bad trade? Yeah, the retained salary sucks, but we can thank the new CBA for that.

Matthais is a big upgrade over Richardson as a 3rd line C. Booth and Kassian have shown some good chemistry together, and add Matthais between them, and this could be a legitimate 3rd line. Richardson going down a line improves the 4th line as well.

Markstrom was a highly touted prospect at one 1 time, and was just named AHL goalie of the month. Him and Lack are buddies from what I gather, and the 2 of them competing for the #1 job could provide some excellent goal tending.

Things are not as bleak in Canucksland as you cOiler and Lames fans would like to think.

Yep you're the only one.

Gillis traded 2 top 15 G for an upgrade on the 3rd line, a prospect whose been a complete bust so far and Bo Horvat.

If Gillis isn't fired by tomorrow morning he must have compromising pictures of the Aquilini family.

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#46 GeezMoney
March 04 2014, 05:04PM
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Zarny wrote:

Yep you're the only one.

Gillis traded 2 top 15 G for an upgrade on the 3rd line, a prospect whose been a complete bust so far and Bo Horvat.

If Gillis isn't fired by tomorrow morning he must have compromising pictures of the Aquilini family.

You're totally blind. Coming from Alberta, it's hard to see why a team would want cap relief. I mean, when you can't sign free agents, it's impossible to see the value in having cap space. BUT from the point of view of a desirable market, moving Luongo without taking heavy cap weight makes a lot of sense.

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#47 KleptoKlown
March 04 2014, 05:08PM
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@Mantastic

Oh look, an original comment about how the Canucks haven't won the cup. Never seen this before.

1990 was almost 25 years ago.

Pretty sad when your badge of honor is all rusted, and yet you still cling to it.

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#48 andyg
March 04 2014, 05:08PM
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@NM00

No crystal ball!

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#49 Nat
March 04 2014, 05:09PM
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"It cost Vancouver not one, but two excellent NHL goaltenders."

That's it right there. This deal, on it's own, looks pretty good. As much as I'll miss Luongo and his talent, this was a good ending for both parties, all things considered. But when you step back and look at the last couple of years, and the fact that we tried to trade Lu, then traded Cory, and now we've traded Lu...what an awful mess.

I think Gillis has done some good things during his time in Vancouver, but good lord that is a huge black mark on his resume. I would not be opposed to him being let go at the end of this season.

I'm blown away by how nuts this season has become compared to my expectations at the beginning of the season.

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#50 KleptoKlown
March 04 2014, 05:13PM
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@Zarny

Lou is 34 years old. He's past his prime, and this season has made it clear that the Canucks are not in serious contention for the cup. Yeah anything can happen in the playoffs, but I wouldn't bank on it.

Should Gillis have taken the Leafs rumored deal at the draft a couple of year ago? Absolutely, but he didn't. This trade is making the best of a bad situation, and I really doubt Gillis could have done any better. Lou goes home to his wife and kids, and the Canucks get younger.

This isn't a bad deal.

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