Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo was visibly disappointed in his post-trade deadline news conference saying his contract “sucks” and would “scrap” it if he could.
The Canucks were close to a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who appear poised to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector reports the deal would have been Luongo for a second round pick, a third round pick, and goaltender Ben Scrivens.
Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province reports Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis and Canucks assistant general manager Lorne Henning had actually agreed on a deal for a pair of second round picks and Scrivens for Luongo. However, in the “11th hour” Nonis asked the Canucks to retain part of Luongo’s salary as “payback” to Canucks general manager Mike Gillis for taking his job in 2008 and the deal fell through.
Gillis and the Canucks have now have no choice, but to deal Luongo this summer. It begs the question: will Luongo’s value go up or go down this summer when the salary cap drops from $70.2 million to $64.3 million?
A lot can happen between now and the summer.
Presumed Canucks starter Cory Schneider could struggle or suffer an injury leading to Luongo taking over the number one reigns. Luongo could take the Canucks deep into the playoffs and boost his trade value or struggle to the point where the Canucks might have to give up additional assets for another team to take Luongo’s contract.
Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer could struggle down the stretch and renew pressure in Toronto to acquire a veteran starter in the summer. Washington Capitals might want a goaltender after having the opportunity to assess their young tandem of Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby. The Florida Panthers remains a possible option.
The Calgary Flames may also be in the market for a goaltender as Miikka Kiprusoff is rumoured to be retiring at the end of the season. There is reportedly pressure on general manager Jay Feaster from ownership to make the playoffs next season, so they might push for Luongo as a band-aid solution.
It is clear Luongo’s trade value in the summer is flux right now and is highly dependent on what happens between now and the end of the season as it will impact the number of suitors.
The Canucks believe Luongo will still have value in the summer with a shrinking salary cap. They believe teams will be intrigued at the prospect of acquiring a $6-7 million goaltender for a cheap cap hit of $5.3 million.
The Canucks remain convinced there’s a hockey trade out there for Luongo. With a new CBA in place, they believe the goalie market is still defining itself and, when it does, Luongo’s $5.3-million cap hit will seem attractive. Phoenix starter Mike Smith, for example, is reportedly seeking a new deal worth $7 million annually over eight years. By comparison, Luongo’s deal doesn’t seem so bad.
ESPN’s Craig Custance believes the Canucks will be able to acquire as much as a roster player and a prospect or two in the summer, but it is difficult to say. Because the Maple Leafs were the only team really interested in acquiring Luongo, the Canucks had to settle for Scrivens as the main piece after previously asking for the likes of Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, and Tyler Bozak.
It is a risky situation holding on to Luongo until the summer. By holding on, they are hoping Luongo’s value remains the same or goes up.
If everything goes the Canucks way and goaltending in cities like Toronto and Washington falter, then there will be plenty of teams calling Gillis and his value goes up. If there are a couple of teams interested, they could hold the Canucks for ransom in the summer knowing they have to move Luongo with the cap coming down with a compliance buyout not really an option.