Screen cap via Justin Bourne.
In the immediate wake of the explosive Roberto Luongo to the New York Islanders rumour proferred on Twitter by Bob McKenzie on Thursday afternoon, McKenzie’s TSN colleague Darren Dreger joined Dave Naylor and Steve Simmons on Toronto’s TSN 1050 sports talk radio station to further flesh out the topic (you can listen to his segment here).
Darren Dreger has been especially bearish on Roberto Luongo’s trade value throughout this saga, and while that’s bothered some Canucks fans (who like to bring up Dreger’s familial relationship with Dave Nonis as a reason to be skeptical of his reporting), it’s tough to argue that Dreger’s perspective on this process hasn’t been completely vindicated by the events of last summer, last season, and the trade deadline.
On Thursday, Dreger suggested that Roberto Luongo wouldn’t even report to Canucks training camp if the team failed to move him this summer. Dreger further opined that even though the Islanders "make some sense" as a Luongo destination, the latest rumour is "more the Vancouver Canucks angling, trying to create, invent a market" for Roberto Luongo’s services.
Read past the jump for more.
Let’s unpack some of Dreger’s comments and then dive into it with some further analysis. Off the bat he addressed the absolute, firm need the Canucks have to move Roberto Luongo this offseason, and suggested that the Islanders have been among the mystery teams referenced by Mike Gillis throughout last season (and last summer):
"What we know is that Vancouver cannot survive another season, or another offseason, with the same type of situation with Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo.
So when you heard Mike GIllis over the course of the year continually feed us the diet of "no there are other teams", y’know, maybe Garth Snow and the New York Islanders were one of those teams that was nibbling. Maybe they saw a fit there with the transfer of contract, when you make a deal like that you’ve got to move out a bad contract and take a bad contract."
Of course Roberto Luongo has a "bad" contract (in that it’s a difficult contract to move, his performance is obviously full value for 5.33 million against the cap annually). But no matter how bad his deal is, that sordid piece of paper is at least tied to one of the two goaltenders in the NHL who consistently posts an elite even-strength save percentage season after season. Roberto Luongo is also outrageously durable, which is a key part of his actual hockey value.
Rick DiPietro just doesn’t have a "bad" contract in the same way Roberto Luongo does. Luongo’s contract is onerous, DiPietro’s is a complete sunk cost. DiPietro has been abysmal when healthy, and he’s rarely been healthy. I get that it’s tempting to group these two deals together because of the length of term, but beyond that the comparison is nonexistent.
Dreger went on to list teams with a potential need (including the old "Luongo destination front runners", the Leafs and the Panthers) before dropping the "Luongo won’t report" bomb:
"So if Mike Gillis and the management group can make (an Islanders trade) work, good for them, becasue the bottom line has to be remedying the situation.
You can’t have Luongo and Schneider back together – I don’t think Roberto will report! Honestly, I don’t. I think (Luongo’s) done in Vancouver and whatever situation is put in front of him, he’s going to accept."
This sort of matches what Mike Gillis has said in the past. One way or another, Luongo won’t be back and that’s the one thing that all sides appear to agree on.
The prospect of Luongo refusing to report seems to be a somewhat realistic one, I’d think, if the Canucks really are unable to move the player. (Though if the team is willing to eat a contract the size of DiPietro’s, and that’s a 24 million dollar question, then it’s a slam dunk that they’ll be able to move Luongo somehow). Way back in April, Iain Macintyre described the mechanics of how a Luongo hold-out would work:
If Luongo is serious about escaping his contract, he can withhold services, which would allow the Canucks to terminate the deal. But the team would first have to place him on waivers, meaning Luongo would have no input on where he plays and could be claimed for a fee of $125.
Look, if the Canucks aren’t willing to accept an ugly deal in return for their netminder then I could realistically see the waiver hammer being brandished. I’d be very surprised if it came to that, however.
Finally, the prospect of a Canucks trade including Roberto Luongo for Nino Niedereitter was broached. Quoth Dreger:
"The Vancouver Canucks are in such a pickle right now that if they can get [Nino] from the Islanders, then Mike Gillis should be a candidate for Executive of the Year…
There’s so many managers around the game that continue to tell me if this drags into the offseason, which it will, that Gillis is going to have to pay to move Roberto Luongo…
Do you get a prospect that still has that level of potential for Roberto Luongo? I don’t think you do unless you’re giving up something else in return"
Now here’s where I strenuously disagree with Dreger. Nino Niederreiter is a talented, power forward who has demanded a trade from Long Island in the recent past. Niederreiter has no record of success at the National Hockey League level at this point in his career.
I just find it difficult to believe that a disgruntled prospect like Niederreiter could possibly have more value than turning 24 million in sunk costs into a useful – albeit similarly priced – asset. But hey, that’s just me.
You can listen to the audio of Darren Dreger’s segment here.