Luongo-to-Edmonton trade chatter has heated up over the past two months.
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Over the past few months as we’ve been strombabbling about Roberto Luongo’s future, the star goaltender has been laughing at us on Twitter (well, not us specifically, but he’s certainly been having fun with the speculation). On Halloween he dressed up as an Edmonton Oilers goaltender (probably his childhood hero Grant Fuhr) and tweeted a photo of it, causing mostly laughter.
But the laughing stopped when Kevin Lowe addressed the Edmonton Oilers’ trade posture, throwing gasoline on the "Wow Factor" trade rumour that was floated earlier in the week by team employee Bob Stauffer. Certainly the Oilers appear to be a team interested in improving their roster by using the trade market (that sound you heard was a million Oilers fans, all crying out at once in worry), and sound willing to spend in order to shore up their situation in goal.
Read on past the jump.
Here’s what Lowe said courtesy David Staples and the Cult of Hockey:
“You’re going into a game with lots of trump cards. That’s the only way you can make deals is if you have assets that are attractive to other teams. When you have assets then you can make deals.
So, absolutely, we’re at some point, whenever that is, we’re probably not too far down the road, we’re going to have to make some tough choices and maybe move some players, or a player, draft picks, to get a piece or two that finishes off the formation of what you feel is a championship team."
Lowe went on, and specifically singled out the situation between the pipes as an area he’d like to address:
"Goaltending is a question mark, and I say that in all respect to Devan Dubnyk and Khabi (Nikolai Khabibulin).
Khabi has been injured and he’s approaching 40. He’s given us stretches of strong goaltending but his health is one thing. [Dubnyk is trending upward]…but he’s got to go out and prove it now if he’s going to take over the Number One job.”
Alrighty then. So the Oilers, who according to Jason Botchford made the Canucks an offer in mid-September, might be interested in acquiring Roberto Luongo. We already knew that, I suppose, but it’s certainly something to hear Lowe talk so openly about making "tough decisions" and giving away assets to improve the club’s quality in net.
I’ve got a few quick thoughts on this, first of all, I think there’s no way the Oilers and the Canucks make any sense as trading partners. The ascendant Oilers are in the process of assembling a core that could wreck the Northwest Division for years to come, while the Canucks are trying to squeeze as much juice as they can from whatever is left of their championship window (two or three years max). It just doesn’t make sense for the Canucks to accelerate a rivals developmental curve, unless that rival is willing to pay you a dollar twenty-five for a loonie.
The Canucks, like every teenage girl in the greater YEG area, apparently covet Jordan Eberle – but I’ve got a better shot at scoring a date with Marilyn Monroe, than the Canucks do at convincing the Oilers to give up on their "youth movement" marketing strategy.
So to make this work (and we strongly suspect that the Canucks want, preferably, two or three young roster players) the Oilers would need to give up an asset like Jeff Petry – at least – to make an inter-divisional deal make any sense for Vancouver’s hockey club. I don’t see that happening either.
In any event, I’m skeptical about the notion that the "wow factor" trade rumour tells us anything at all. At the moment the Oilers are a veritable Public Relations disaster, and not just becasue of the lockout. Oilers owner Daryl Katz has squandered a good deal of political capital and local good will through his aggressive attempts to gouge local taxpayers for a new barn, and through his questionable political donations in Alberta.
If we wanted to get all Oliver Stone about it, we might ask the following quesiton. "Could an Oilers media employee floating a "wow factor trade rumour," and front office Godfather Kevin Lowe providing more grist for the mill simply be a "Wag the Dog" smokescreen?" That’s probably a reach even for a gutless, cynical organization like the Oilers, but realistically, the Canucks and Oilers don’t make sense as trade partners and I’d be thoroughly shocked if Luongo ended up in Northern Alberta.
Conspiracy theories aside, what’s certainly true is that Lowe’s comments on Thursday evening couldn’t have been timed better for Mike Gillis and the Canucks. As Harrison Mooney wrote earlier in the day on Thursday, the Canucks sent a bevy of scouts and two front office employees to watch the Toronto Marlies – the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate – play the Abbotsford Heat yesterday. The two previous General Managers of the Canucks (Dave Nonis and Brian Burke) and the team’s future General Manager (Laurence Gilman) were all in the building to watch Joe Colborne stand up for Jake Gardiner, James Reimer wolf down a pretzel and Ben Scrivens surrender two short-handed goals in the span of three seconds, perfectly demonstrating Toronto’s "need" for a stabilizing presence in net.
Throughout this drawn out process, the Maple Leafs have made the most sense as a Luongo destination and I still tend to believe he’ll end up there. For now, it’s good for Mike Gillis and the Canucks to appear to have options, even if the Oilers are just running interference and ultimately make limited sense as a Luongo trade dance partner.