Mirtle

Canucks shouldn't expect much in return for Luongo

The Globe and Mail

(DARRYL DYCK)

For all the drama, Roberto Luongo has consistently remained a pretty good regular season goaltender.

In fact, of the 90 goalies to play in 50 or more games since the lockout, the Vancouver Canucks veteran is seventh in save percentage at an average of .919, putting him behind only Tuukka Rask, Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Tomas Vokoun and Cory Schneider.

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He may have turned 33 a few weeks back and he may carry one of the more ridiculous contracts in the league, but Luongo can play.

That said, the Canucks (and their fans) shouldn't expect to hit a homerun on any deal that ships him out.

For one, the number of teams that will be interested really isn't that high.

There would seem to be a decent fit with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that looks a good goaltender away from a return to the playoffs. GM Steve Yzerman and Luongo have a relationship from the Olympics, where the netminder won gold in 2010.

Luongo could also probably find a home with the Florida Panthers, where he spent five seasons before moving to Vancouver. His wife, Gina, calls the area home. (Although Florida has another potential Schneider in waiting in Jacob Markstrom.)

There are longer shots like New Jersey (if Martin Brodeur retires), Toronto and Columbus (if Luongo will go to either struggling team).



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The complicating factors are beyond that, however.

Consider that Luongo has a no-trade clause, which he can use to land in a particular destination or two if he chooses. Dumping him in a market that has little chance for immediate success may not be an option.

For another, that contract mitigates his value considerably, as the remaining 10 years at a $5.33-million cap hit will come with some risk given the new collective bargaining agreement is on its way this fall.

Many NHL goaltenders play well into their mid-30s, but Luongo will still have four years left on the deal as he approaches 40 and there's no guarantee he can maintain his play close to that long. (Save percentage tends to dip on average by about age 38.)

There are, in other words, plenty of limitations here on what Canucks GM Mike Gillis is going to be able to bring back in a deal, and you don't even have to look much past some of the other recent goaltender trades for examples of how far their value has fallen.

Montreal moved Jaroslav Halak without getting a great deal in return and the likes of Mike Smith and Brian Elliott, two of the better goalies this season, signed on cheap free agent deals last summer.

There is also the possibility Thomas, Miikka Kiprusoff and others are also available, which crowds the market.

Luongo is movable, but expectations have to be kept realistic. If Vancouver can land a late first round pick or a middling prospect, that's a fair deal given the term left on his contract and the low number of suitors.

They may even have to take some salary back in the trade.

But what the Canucks should be looking for here above all else is opening up some cap space to have flexibility to improve the rest of their roster. Schneider is going to need a new contract this summer, and if it's clear he'll be the starter on one of the better teams in the league, it will be bigger than had Luongo stayed put (think: $3-million or more a season).

Even if they bring in a veteran to back Schneider up, however, Vancouver will be spending less in goal than the $6.2-million they allocated there this year, money they can put into improving their depth up front or on the blueline.

That alone makes the Luongo deal worth doing, even if they get little in return.



<h5 style='border-top: #000 1px solid; border-bottom: #000 1px dotted; font:14px Georgia,serif; font-weight: normal; width: 460px; padding: 5px 0; margin: 20px 0 0'>Goalies ranked by win percentage since lockout</h5><iframe src='http://www.theglobeandmail.com/static/test/charts/google/google_iframe_04.html?id=000&type=bar&ssid=0Ar3M_smeSBJsdGJSQjE5LVJmR3l2NlBvRmQ2emJPSlE&bm=40&lm=120&w=460&h=300' scrolling='no' frameborder='no' width='460' height='300' style='border-bottom: 1px dotted #000; margin: 20px 0 0' ></iframe>


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