Strombabble: as the dust settles

As the NHL Draft came and went, and the dust began to settle, Roberto Luongo remained the property of the Vancouver Canucks. As the draft concluded on Saturday afternoon, Gillis played coy, and rejected the notion that the draft was any sort of formal deadline for a trade: "[a Luongo deal is] certainly not going to be done because of the pressure of selecting kids who in all likelihood aren’t going to be significantly involved in this team." But the reality of the situation is that he’s taking on a considerable level of risk with his obstinance.

Of course, Luongo’s continued presence on the Canucks roster set off a new round of conflicting reports, anonymously sourced rumours and other scuttlebutt.

With that in mind let’s dust off another installment in our Strombabble series, and dissect what’s reportedly going on with Gillis’ asking price, the possibility of Luongo ending up on Vancouver’s AHL affiliate farm-team, and the more outlandish possibility of Luongo "steering" a potential trade toward his preferred destination – Vancouver’s quadruple A farm-team: the Florida Dale Tallons.

Read past the jump for more.

We’ll start, as we often do in these posts, with a report from James Mirtle. His report quotes Brian Burke as being frustrated by trade negotiations with Mike Gillis, and agitated by the asking price:

“From my perspective, the prices that are being asked have to be reasonable,” Burke said. “If you can get a goaltender who makes you better, and it costs you 15 first-round picks, would you do it? No.

So somewhere between 15 first-round picks and something that makes sense, we’re not there yet. I’m not going to overpay to upgrade at that position. I’m not happy with what’s being asked. From my perspective, rather than strip your organization to fill one positional need, we’ll go with what we have.”

Well then.

While Gillis indicated that he was "the problem" in his post-draft presser on Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t then apparent just how big a problem Gillis was. 15 first round picks! Not even Scott Howson makes that trade, though if it was offered to him he would surely turn it down.

Of course, Mike Gillis’ asking price isn’t actually 15 first rounders – that’s just a silly, albeit typical bit of Burkean exaggeration – but I’d wager Vancouver’s GM is indeed asking for a King’s ransom. That or Brian Burke wants to acquire Roberto Luongo for peanuts. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, frankly.

When you consider Toronto’s desperate situation between the pipes, it’s clear that Toronto still makes the most sense as a Luongo destination by far. But of course, Mike Gillis and Brian Burke both need to put their pride, which is potentially self-destructive in this situation, aside before any deal can work…


One wrench that was thrown into the rumour mill today, came from Aaron Portzline – see the tweet embedded at the top of this post. Portzline’s sources suggest that, contrary to earlier reports from James Duthie, Nick Kypreos and Dan Murphy, Luongo wouldn’t be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to Toronto, preferring to guide a trade towards Florida instead. Portzline was the second reliable person to touch on the "Luongo to Florida" rumour in a twelve hour span.

Late last night The Fourth Period magazine reported that a deal between the Canucks and Panthers involving stud American centre Nick Bjugstad was possible, despite Dale Tallon’s comments that he wasn’t willing to deal any of his team’s "top-four prospects." Dale Tallon also pointed out that Florida isn’t in a situation where they have any dire need for Luongo’s services saying, "Our goaltending was good for us last year" (H/T James Mirtle).

Dale Tallon is right of course, Florida got .926 sv% goaltending at even-strength last year with a tandem of Jose Theodore (still signed for one more season) and Scott Clemmensen (a UFA this summer). With stud goaltender Jakob Markstrom in the pipeline, and probably ready to play 30 or so games next season, Florida has never made that much sense as a destination for Luongo – though they’ve repeatedly cropped up in Luongo destination rumours. 

I suppose it’s still possible that such a trade could go down – that is if Dale Tallon takes leave of his senses, which has happened in the past. I believe he calls it a "taking a timeout."

The Stick

Portzline’s report cause a mini-Twitter brushfire this morning, as many of the leading luminaries in NHL rumour reporting chimed in to discuss possible scenarios. The heaviest such scenario was described by TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

Goodness. Could Luongo really become the goaltender version of Wade Redden? He’s got way to much skill for that, I hope. 

The point of this is that the Canucks do have options if  Luongo were to refuse to be dealt to Toronto or Chicago. Luongo’s no-trade clause allows him to "veto" any potential deal, he’s earned that right and it does put him in the drivers seat to some extent. But it won’t protect him from being moved to the AHL.

For a prideful guy like Luongo, I suspect that would an ultimate indignity. Certainly his reaction to the rumours – though it was framed in his usual brand of unique, self-referential humour – indicates to me that this particular rumour pissed him off:

Opportunity Costs

By keeping Luongo past the NHL draft – Gillis is taking a massive, massive risk. I suspect the team will incur mammoth opportunity costs too, because I see no way Cory Schneider allows the team to buy out a couple of his UFA years at a reasonable price while Luongo remains on the roster. Gillis was preternaturally calm during his post-draft Press Conference, but his disposition belies the fact that the Luongo situation is dicey for the Canucks and their General Manager. It was dicey before the draft too, but by keeping Luongo into the final week of June, the stakes have been raised even further.

This is a high-level, three dimensional game of Texas Hold’Em being played by Luongo, Mike Gillis and opposing General Managers from Stan Bowman, to Brian Burke, to Dale Tallon. Mike Gillis is holding out for an optimal return, which, is fair – but it won’t work if everyone (including Luongo) calls Gillis’ bluff.

I’m not saying it won’t work out for the Canucks, but Gillis is undoubtedly sauntering unharnessed on a tight-rope at the moment. Team’s are only six days away from committing the bulk of their cap-space to an uninspiring group of free-agents in a forty-eight hour frenzy, which, could make a hefty contract like Luongo’s more difficult to move. While Gillis believes there’s a chance that an active "late-July trade market" will form as a result of CBA uncertainty, and the lack of quality in this year’s free-agency pool – every day Luongo remains on the roster, is a day not spent negotiating a long-term deal with Cory Schneider…

Gambling Man

At least you have to hand it to him, Mike Gillis has balls. Most other General Managers would have played this situation much more conservatively, and while such caution might help put fans at ease that doesn’t make it the "right" approach. 

If you look at the Blackhawks and Stan Bowman for example, Bowman traded Brian Campbell for Rotislav Olesz and not much else at last year’s draft. While Campbell’s "toxic" contract mitigated his positive value, and Chicago was desperate to get out from under it, Campbell ultimately turned in a career year for the Panthers – even leading the team in South Beach to a divisional title. Meanwhile Olesz wasted away in the AHL, while Chicago has since committed essentially seven million dollars to significantly inferior players in Steve Montador and Johnny Oduya.

Some see Mike Gillis as having painted himself into a corner by holding onto Luongo, and by demanding team’s ante up in any potential deal for the franchise netminder. They may be right. But as Gillis said on Saturday afternoon when asked about the challenge of getting "full value" in a Roberto Luongo trade (transcription my own):

"It depends on how you define full value. For some teams it’s defined a different way and that’s why we’re exploring all our options and making sure we’ve listened to everyone who might want to acquire him. Contrary to what people might describe, there is a significant amount of interest in players who are high end players, and finding a fit is occasionally more challenging. But there’s definitely fits to be found…

This is a significant consideration for our organization, it’s not going to be done lightly and it’s not going to be done in a hurry.

Implied there is that it will get done. Whether or not Gillis gets "full value" as he defines it, is another matter.