Strombabble: Tiresome Lockout News Instantly Replaced by Tiresome Luongo Trade Speculation

Luongo practices in a Canucks jersey in Florida this morning.
Photo credit: Farhan Lalji.

With the new collective bargaining agreement days away from ratification and the transaction window re-opening for NHL clubs, reporters like TSN’s Farhan Lalji and the Toronto Sun’s Rob Longley have descended on Coral Springs, Florida – home of the Florida Panthers practice facility – to cover the drawn out but possibly, finally imminent Roberto Luongo trade.

This morning Roberto Luongo has been photographed non-stop at a practice session in Coral Springs. Not that it’s Luongo’s intention but when you’re wearing a Canucks jersey and practicing with a former Maple Leafs goalie coach at the Florida Panthers practice facility: you’re going to draw the media’s attention. It’s unavoidable.

So the frenzy is upon us and there are more grainy practice photos of Roberto Luongo  (like the one Farhan posted above, of Luongo wearing a Canuck practice jersey) on Twitter this morning than there are famous fakes of mythical beasts like the Sasquatch or Loch Ness. This is particularly appropriate since, by weeks end, Luongo could concievably make it into the cryptozoological journals and become a chimerical creature of the sort the world hasn’t seen in nearly a decade. I’m talking of course about a consistently competent Maple Leafs goaltender. 

We’ll look at some of the pressure points and moving pieces in a possible Luongo deal, recap media chatter, parse some quotes, and try to find our bearings. Read on past the jump. 

Is the deal done already?

Even during the lockout, when teams were ostensibly unable to discuss trade-specifics, reports surfaced from Sportsnet’s John Shannon – who is pretty plugged in – that the Luongo deal was all but completed. That sentiment was echoed again recently by the likes of Josh Rimer. 

For what it’s worth we didn’t buy it then and we don’t buy it now. TSN’s Bob McKenzie repudiated this notion yesterday, and James Mirtle threw additional gasoline on the fire by questioning on Twitter whether or not Luongo would waive his no-trade clause and approve a deal that would send him to Bay Street (more on this in a moment). 

Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis was asked about Luongo’s trade status early in a media conference call on Sunday afternoon, and after chuckling about how quickly the subject was broached gave the following answer: 

"Until this [collective bargaining agreement] gets ratified we’re not talking about trades with any team.  [This agreement] done very early [Sunday] morning and we don’t have the specific details yet – other than what’s been reported – and we’re not going to do anything until we see a collective agreement that’s ratified [by all sides]. At that point we’ll begin to move forward on a variety of different fronts that we’ve been thinking about."

I have to believe that, until the parameters and the language of the next CBA are set in stone, the framework of any Roberto Luongo deal will remain in flux. For example, unknown variables like the precise way that amnesty buyouts will work in the next CBA and whether or not the Kovy Klause makes it into the ten year deal would presumably impact the leverage and priorities of each side.

Obviously I don’t have any insider information, but I find it tough to imagine a relatively conservative front office like Vancouver’s agreeing to a trade of this magnitude without first poring obsessively over the new CBA. That being said, smart folks with a better handle on the Canucks’ thinking than I, like Jason Botchford or Brad Zeimer, are handicapping a Luongo deal to happen, and to happen quickly.

Would Luongo even accept a trade to Toronto?

That’s the question James Mirtle broached on Twitter on Sunday evening.

Generally speaking the thinking in Vancouver has been that Luongo would rather go to a market like Toronto or Edmonton and play as an everyday starter, than use his leverage to steer a trade exclusively to the Panthers (who are obviously unwilling to pay up, clearly looking for a second Brian Campbell trade steal) and ride the pine in Vancouver. But maybe it’s worth revisiting the report from Aaron Portzline, who heard that Luongo had vetoed a trade to Toronto in late-June of 2012:

Now Luongo’s agent Gilles Lupien and Luongo himself denied this report at the time while the Canucks publicly said there was no deal in place for Luongo to veto. But, I mean, what else were they going to say?

Ultimately, I narrowly buy that Luongo hasn’t yet vetoed any specific deal. Presuming that Portzline’s source comes from the Columbus frontoffice, it’s concievable that they were strategically coddled by the Canucks on this point during trade talks ("oh don’t worry, he’s turned down lots of destinations not just you Columbus, seriously what are you willing to part with?").

Still, the sense we got when Luongo met the media at a charity golf tournament on the eve of the NHL lockout was that Luongo’s preference was indeed to be moved to the Panthers throughout this past summer. Maybe he’s relaxed that stance since (that seemed to be the case at the time), or maybe he’s still going to maximize his leverage and push for a trade to his former organization. It’s well within his rights to do so, and only he knows for sure. 

My take, which is pretty much worthless since I don’t know Luongo personally: I’d be mildly surprised if he refused to be traded to the Maple Leafs. For a super competitive guy who despite the media’s weird "Luongo’s a choker" perception seems to live for the big game, the prospect and challenge of playing every day in Toronto has to be tempting. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that no Luongo trade can be completed without his approval, and that he’s got the ability to stop to any transaction between the Leafs and the Canucks dead in its tracks.

Update: It looks like Luongo is doing Mike Gillis and the Canucks a big favour, and has given the team the "green light" to do what they will:

Man, Luongo is all class. Though I’d still take this with a grain of salt, since I still highly doubt that "green light" equates to "yeah I’m happy to go play in Columbus."

Could the Canucks return both Luongo and Schneider this season?

This is the million dollar question heading into the likely opening of Canucks training camp this weekend. James Mirtle, again causing trouble, seems to see it as a possibility. As mentioned previously, however, the Canucks beat-writers appear to be convinced that it’s unlikely in the extreme, though, Jason Botchford qualified that today when he wrote:

The organization has maintained through it all that it’s willing to at least start the season with both Luongo and Cory Schneider. That’s not a smokescreen.

Keeping Luongo around for next season would certainly be a distraction, but it would also make a lot of hockey sense, especially in a shortened season. In a shortened, condensed season: starting quickly and racking up as many wins in 48 or 50 games, while dealing with less time off between those contests, is going to be key. Obviously there’s a better chance than usual that a lower quality team could ride the percentages to an undeserved playoff berth, a dangerous prospect for a good team like the Canucks. Not to mention that having two guys you trust between the pipes would be a big advantage for a team that will rely on a goaltender in Schneider who has enver been an everyday starter at the NHL level.

Basically Luongo’s experience and steady, reliable presence in net could be particularly valuable to the Canucks in a shortened season, a fact that becomes especially stark when you remember that Eddie Lack is injured and has struggled this season anyway. Seriously, the backup goaltender cupboard on the free-agent market is as barren as the pantry at your divorée father’s house was (before he remarried).

So the obvious answer here is that, yes, the Canucks could return both Schneider and Luongo to start the season. It might even be the "right" call to do so. Boy, I have a tough time seeing it though.

The Market

In terms of teams that could be in on the Luongo-sweeps, we’ve got Florida (who seem like a long-shot for now, but that could change in a hurry), Toronto, Edmonton (who apparently got into the bidding just before the lockout) and Chicago. By far the most likely of those destinations strikes me as Toronto but that’s really just based on their tradable assets, their glaring need, and the familiarity the Maple Leafs front office has with Luongo (Dave Nonis made the trade that brought Luongo to Vancouver). 

For what it’s worth, Mike Gillis did his best to put the pressure on the buyers when he was asked on Sunday’s conference call whether or not trading Luongo was a "priority" for the Canucks:

"It’s the priority for a number of other teams, so it’ll become a priority for us. We’ll have to wait and see what comes our way now that we can begin discussing specific things with teams. It’s probably a new landscape now with a new CBA, so it’s unfair of me to comment right now…"

For the Canucks, the best case scenario is that Burke is so desperate to make the playoffs and save his job that he acts like Giovanni Ribisi’s character in Ted. Nazem Kadri – come on down!

The worst case scenario, on the other hand, is that Luongo is obstinate and insists on being moved to the Panthers (again, this would be well within his rights to do, and I wouldn’t blame him if he took this tack), in which case: Mike Santorelli – come on down!

Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised by either scenario, or anything in between and as the gap between Kadri and Santorelli might suggest: that basically means nothing would surprise me, at this point, on the Luongo front. The Canucks could net a huge bounty for his services, or they might have to settle for mid-level prospects and cap-space. It’s that breadth possibilities that has kept this story and the speculation surrounding it so fresh and fascinating (even though we’ve beaten the material into the ground rather thoroughly around these parts). 

Obviously from the moment the CBA gets ratified, it will be a DefCon1 situation for those waiting on this saga to finally draw to a close. For the hockey media: they’re already there. 

  • Keeping Lu for this season does make sense on a hockey level, but I hope that doesn’t happen. Roberto has already had to wait in suspense for 8 months since he lost his starting job to Cory, and he has been an excellent team mate throughout. No bitterness and willing to interract with the media despite the drama.

    Please GMMG, find a way to trade him asap. After all the BS he’s put up with over the last few years, I hope we can do this for Lu.

  • BrudnySeaby

    I’m torn on seeing Luongo traded or stay here with the Canucks. He’s been reliable, put up shut-outs in the SCF, and has been a much better team player over the last year. But it’s also a lot of $’s that are never simultaneously on the ice.

    Having said that, I think the Luongo trade situation is a very volatile one, where the decision might to pul the trigger might just happen “spontaneously” (not saying it won’t be well thought out!!).

    I think it all depends on a combination of factors:
    – What is the physical and mental state of the skaters and goalies? Are they ready to go? How many are injured?
    – What needs in the line-up do management and coaching staff identify?
    – What is being offered in trades?
    – What is the goal this season? Where do management & staff think they can finish (top 4, 5-8) with what style of play given current injuries? Is it to play a more defensive, low-scoring game with Kesler out and the Sedin production possibly not returning to levels pre-2012? If so, having 2 solid goalies might be preferable over a Luongo trade.

    Anyways, it will be interesting to see it all play out. And whatever happens, I hope both Luongo and the Canucks end up being happy!

  • KleptoKlown

    Starting the season with Luo and Schinds isn’t exactly a bad thing.

    The travesty would be to trade Luo for less than his value this season. It is a bit of a gamble to assume that one of the Leafs/Panthers/Blackhawks/Oilers will have goaltending issues this year, but chances are at least 1 team will stumble out of the gate and become more inclined to offer that extra something in order to get a deal done.

    The Canucks still have enough money left on the cap to sign Jason Arnott. H Sedin/Kesler/Arnott/Lappy/Malhotra up the middle should give the Canucks enough depth to make another run at the cup.

    Don’t forget moving Edler is also a possibility.

    There are so many variables involved that no one really knows how things will play out…but it’s going to be fun to watch!

  • KleptoKlown

    I have one question that I don’t see anyone asking yet: does Luongo’s contract suddenly get more enticing b/c of the new CBA?

    Here’s the reasoning: no one can sign these kinds of back-diving contracts anymore, and will other interested teams be able to sign high quality goaltending for 4-5 years (perhaps more) at 5.3 million per? Given the trend in deals for goalies like Carey, Rinne, and Bryzgalov? Luongo’s deal might stop looking like an anchor, and start looking like good gap management given the reality of the new CBA.

  • @Antro the CBA remains, to us at least, such an “unknown unknown” that I don’t know if it makes sense to take score at all yet.

    For example, if the “back-diving contracts revert to original signee if player retires early” clause makes it in, that’ll be rough for VAN long-term but could inflate Lu’s value at the moment (would mitigate trade partner’s long-term risk).

    But I think it’s possible that Luongo’s contract will look better in the light of a new CBA. Not too likely though given the unpredictability of sv% + Luongo’s age.

  • Ive been wondering if maybe philly is willing to pay up for lou.

    Now that there is a buyout clause. Couldnt we take on bryz’s contract, and either trade him; or buy him out next year?

    Dream situation:

    Lou, Ballard, Canautton(?)


    Mejzaros, Bryz, Couturier, 1st, 1st.

    The first question posed would be: why would philly give up this much?

    Imagine if philly had 3 buyouts instead of 2. Wouldnt that be an advantage? Also about that ballard and Mejzaros swap. It wouldnt be the best scenario for philly but it evens out the cap amount swap for the two teams.

    After this id look into the possibility of trading Edler to montreal for the rights to P.K subban. A lefty for a righty.

    Also look at trading Bryz anywhere for needed pieces. Even Chicago.

    Hopefully Dan Ellis is available at the end of this all….

    C’mon Gillis make it happen!