— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) June 18, 2012
Last night, Nick Kypreos tweeted that the Canucks are telling teams calling to ask about Roberto Luongo, that they have "multiple offers" on the table. That echoes Mike Gillis’ comments in a Team1040 interview last Friday when he answered Farhan Lalji’s question about whether or not teams have an interest in acquiring Luongo with, "Of course there have been [teams inquiring], he’s an all-star goalie, he’s one of the top 3 or 4 goalies in the league!"
The 2012 NHL Draft begins in Pittsburgh this Friday night, and despite the repeated protestations of Canucks General Manager and Team President Mike Gillis, many expect that the Canucks will pull the trigger on the long rumoured Roberto Luongo deal this weekend. As the draft nears, the scuttlebutt has heated up, and the misinformation is flowing freely. Let’s cut through the haze, by engaging in a harmless spot of Strombabble.
Read past the jump!
Let’s go back to last week’s Team 1040 interview (linked to in the first paragraph), because Mike Gillis made some exceedingly interesting comments about the potential for draft day trades this season. Asked by Farhan whether or not a thin crop of unrestricted free-agents might act as a catalyst for a flurry of trading activity on draft day, Mike Gillis responded by saying (transcription my own):
Nope, I think there may be less, and I think there may not be any trades, or any significant ones, until after the free agency period – when teams see where they stand and see what their weaknesses are. It’s a very unique situation, there are few grade-A free agents. There are a lot of third, fourth line guys and a lot of fifth or sixth defenseman and no grade-A goalies, so it may shape up to be a very different kind of year.
There is some uncertainty about the future, but we’re going to carry on like it’s business as usual, [but there is some uncertainty] which, may affect teams differently. So it’s going to be an interesting 4 or 5 months.
We’ve repeatedly spoken about the opportunity cost that the Canucks could potentially incur if they don’t move a goaltender at the draft. The thinking goes that the team only really benefits from a Luongo trade if they’re able to sign Cory Schneider to a medium-term deal (say, 3 seasons) that buys out two of his UFA years, while carrying a relatively modest cap-hit. As such, Mike Gillis would do well to avoid arbitration, as well as a predatory offer-sheet (though an offer sheet really wouldn’t be the end of the world).
Moreover, over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of valuable players on "toxic contracts" change teams. Two that spring to mind immediately are Scott Gomez (who was valuable at the time) and Brian Campbell. What do those two transactions have in common? They both went down at the NHL draft.
This isn’t a coincidence. General Managers at the draft tend to be in "long-term building" mode, and are more likely to take a risk by committing a significant sum of money and cap-space over the medium or long-term, to a player they believe can help their club win. As such, if you’re an NHL General Manager who is looking to move a hypothetically immovable contract like, say, the one possessed by Vancouver’s franchise goaltender Roberto Luongo – then recent history suggests that the NHL Draft is the time to do it.
Perhaps Mike Gillis is right. Maybe the lack of quality unrestricted free-agents on the market this summer, combined with the uncertainty about a labour stoppage in September, will in fact make this summer singular, and unique. It’s possible that the mid-July trade market will be more active than the trade market on draft day, but frankly that proposition strikes me as unlikely, and that approach to moving Luongo’s deal seems very risky. Let’s circle back to this momentarily…
Moving on, Darren Dreger brings us these two nuggets from the "Pre-Draft Speculation" edition of the Dreger Report:
The Canucks, however, are still in listening mode – gathering information and say there’s a good chance Luongo doesn’t get moved this weekend. And regardless of Luongo’s view of the situation, Vancouver remains very high on him as a star goalie and team leader.
As for rumblings of teams positioning to sign Cory Schneider to an offer sheet, Canucks GM Mike Gillis says "don’t bother," The Canucks sit in a very good financial position and will match any rival hoping to poach Schneider. Gillis is less enthusiastic about the potential for trades this week and believes a more solid trade market will form later in the summer.
Gillis, by way of Dreger, is reiterating the same themes here. The constant recurrence of these arguments, allows us to sum up the team’s official party-line heading into the draft as such:
- There is significant interest in Luongo around the league.
- The Canucks value Luongo and won’t trade him away for magic beans.
- The Canucks front-office doesn’t see the draft as any type of "deadline" for a sensible Luongo trade.
- The team is going to find a way to retain Cory Schneider no matter what.
Now the relevant question is: how much of that do you believe, and how much of that do you think is posturing? For what it’s worth, I buy that the Canucks value Luongo, and that the team is going to find a way to retain Cory Schneider no matter what.
As for there being significant interest in Luongo, I’m sure a lot of teams would love to acquire Luongo for pennies on the dollar. Who wouldn’t want to trade a bad contract, and a mid-round pick for an elite goaltender? But I also find the characterization of the Luongo trade market as "soft", as indicated by Bob MacKenzie among other, to be compelling. If I could hazard an interpretation here, I’d suggest that more than any internal calculation projecting a unique flurry of trading activity in mid-July; it’s the "soft" Luongo trade market that is shaping the team’s official "the draft is not a deadline" posture heading into this weekend.