Canucks May Hold Off Trading Roberto Luongo for Buyout

Roberto Luongo (Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

The Vancouver Canucks may hold off trading goaltender Roberto Luongo since the latest collective bargaining agreement proposal from the National Hockey League contains a buyout clause.

The proposal calls for the salary cap for the 2013-13 to be set at $70.2 million. The cap will drop to $60 million the following season and teams will be given a one-time “Compliance Buy-Out” prior to the 2013-14 season to help them comply with the $10.2 million drop in cap space. The buyout will not be charged against the team’s salary cap, but will count towards the players’ share of hockey-related revenue.

With this clause, the Canucks may choose to hold onto Luongo for the shortened, 48-game 2013 season in order to have the option of buying out his contract in the summer because of the ”Cap Advantage Recapture” formula in the proposal. The formula was first proposed back in October by the league.

Under the formula, any player that has an existing contract in excess of five years will have their cap hit continue to count towards the salary cap even if the player retires. If a player gets traded, the cap hit will be tacked on to the salary cap of the team that originally signed the player.

In the case of Luongo, if the Canucks were to trade him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, from now until he retires the Maple Leafs would be responsible for his cap hit. Once he retires, the cap hit would become the responsibility of the Canucks.

Say Luongo plays until the end of the 2017-18 season, the Leafs would be responsible for the $5,333,333 cap hit until that season. The remaining four years would come off of the Maple Leafs cap and gets added to the Canucks cap for the next four years.

A number of reports have emerged during the lockout saying the Canucks have a done deal with the Leafs that will bring Luongo to Toronto. The latest was from Sportsnet’s Daren Millard, who suggested earlier this month that Luongo will be dealt for forwards Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak.

Even if a deal is not done with the Leafs, Luongo is a tradeable commodity, but the return will not be significant. This makes a buyout much more attractive.

Following the 2012-13 season, Luongo has nine more years remaining in his contract and $40.57 million in unpaid salary. The buyout would cost the Canucks $27.1819 million and the team will lose an asset for nothing, but it provides them $5.3 million a year in cap space in the future.

What do the Canucks do? Would Canucks owner Franceso Aquilini agree to buyout Luongo’s contract at a cost of over $27 million? It is hard to say.

The proposed CBA will run until the end of the 2021-22 season and Luongo’s contract ends in the same year, so it is not like the Canucks can hope the next CBA changes things.

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said he believes goaltenders nowadays can transition into a backup role and play into their 40s when he signed Luongo to this mega deal. Buying Luongo out would signal the deal was signed with the intention to circumvent the cap.

Holding onto Luongo could create a distraction for the team as it has gotten to a point where everybody knows his tenure as a Canuck is over. If he is not traded prior to the start of the season, it would be clear they are setting up for a buyout in the summer.

Finally, are there better options to use the buyout clause on? Say defenceman Keith Ballard or winger David Booth, who have yet to justify their $4.2 million and $4.25 million salaries.

Topics: Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

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