Photo Credit: RICK SCUTERI, REUTERS
At this point in the "long offseason," it’s fair to characterize the majority of the hockey world as suffering from at least one of the following ailments: Luongo trade-fatigue, or Doancision-fatigue. While Shane Doan is slated to make up his mind at long last, and will reportedly choose between Phoenix and Vancouver later today: there’s still no resolution in sight for Roberto Luongo. Some are suggesting that, that could change in a hurry if the Canucks emerge victorious in the Doan derby this afternoon.
According to capgeek.com, at this moment the Canucks are roughly 2.4 million dollars under the salary cap. Let’s assume that the club wins the Doan derby later today, then at the absolute bare bones minimum they’d be adding a contract worth 5 million per season (a very conservative estimate). Obviously in this hypothetical situation, the Canucks would find themselves in a salary cap bind and the quickest, easiest solution to their woes might be to rush through a trade for their immovable star netminder.
But I’d be stone cold stunned if that’s how Mike Gillis handled things. Click past the jump for more.
Pass it to Bulis’ Harrison Mooney devoted an entire post to this subject this morning. Here’s how he is reading these tea leaves:
But there’s a reason Luongo is still around. Gillis has spent much of the summer refuting the assumption that the Canucks are dealing him from a position of need — a need to clear salary cap space. The GM has been insistent that there is no hurry, that the Canucks would happily open next season with both Luongo and Cory Schneider on the roster. After all, they still have about $2.5 million in cap space, according to Capgeek.
But they won’t if they sign Shane Doan. Even if Doan’s deal with Vancouver is less than the one he’s agreed to in Phoenix, the Canucks will still be in a situation where salary needs to be shed. It will be much harder for Mike Gillis to act like he’s only seeking a hockey trade if it’s clear the Canucks have to trim expenditures, and if that’s the case, he may have to accept a lesser price for Roberto Luongo.
My guess is that this has been a major factor in the Luongo situation dragging out over the summer. With the Canucks in the Doan sweepstakes, all suitors for Luongo have wisely decided to wait and see if Gillis manages to pry Phoenix’s captain out of Glendale, and in so doing, weakens his bargaining position for Luongo.
The logic here is sound; as usual Harrison knows what he’s talking about. There’s no denying the simple fact that signing Doan would diminish Gillis’ leverage on the trade market, and put the Canucks over the cap.
Even though all of that is true, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Gillis will "have to accept a lesser price for Roberto Luongo." The issue here is that Mike Gillis doesn’t "have to" do anything. On the Luongo trade front, the Canucks have enjoyed next to no leverage all summer, and yet the single major reason Luongo is still around is that the Canucks General Manager has simply refused to accept a "lesser deal" for his star goaltender. As Mike Gillis said at the draft, "I’m the problem."
Do you think adding Doan to the Canucks’ books would really do anything to alter that?
Sure, if they are lucky enough to sign Shane Doan this afternoon, the Canucks would need to clear cap-space, but the "bind" they’d then be in is over-stated, I think. Beyond Luongo there are other redundancies on the team’s roster that could be moved around to accomplish that goal, without messing up Mike Gillis’ hand. For example there’s Mason Raymond’s one year $2.275 million dollar contract that could be sent to the AHL, or exchanged for a mid-round pick. There is Keith Ballard’s 3 year, 4.2 million dollar deal that could be presumably be moved for a dime on the dollar, or buried in Chicago.
Also, Capgeek’s "the Canucks have 2.43 million in cap-space" estimate is based on the Canucks carrying 14 forwards on their NHL roster. So if they send Volpatti or Ebbett to the club’s AHL affiliate, that would give them over 3 million in cap-space. Basically all they need to do is waive a depth forward and trade Raymond for a 4th round pick, and presto: the Canucks have 5.25+ million in cap-space.
Obviously that would comfortably bring the Canucks within spitting distance of what you would need to fit a Shane Doan contract under the cap. And it’s significantly more wiggle room than CBA ninja Laurence Gilman would need to fit Doan’s contract under the cap.
While Vancouver’s prospective Luongo-trade partners may well be biding their time, and just waiting for the Canucks to end up between a rock and a hard place salary cap-wise, I still don’t expect Mike Gillis to budge as a result of a hypothetical Doan contract. In fact, I’d argue that he’s already begun to pivot publicly to try to counteract the deleterious impact the club’s cap situation could have on his Luongo leverage. Remember these comments from Wednesday?
“We’re one of the wealthiest teams in the league, so we don’t have fire sales,” Gillis said. “Our ownership has been completely supportive in everything we’ve done. They are going to be completely supportive in this matter. If someone thinks we’re going to have a fire sale, they’re wrong.”
I thought at the time that Gillis was firing a warning shot across Dale Tallon’s bow, but now I think he may have meant something entirely different altogether. Were his comments an edict to rival General Managers more generally, that: however messy Vancouver’s salary cap situation gets, the franchise has the money and they have the will to wait out any clubs interested in Luongo’s services.
While the Shane Doan speculation will come to an abrupt halt on Friday afternoon (and thank god), I don’t think we should expect a resolution on Luongo’s trade status before the CBA expires at midnight on Saturday. Everything the Canucks have said and done all summer has made it abundantly clear that they’re battening down the hatches, and fully prepared to wage a long siege on this front.