Mistakes aren’t always a bad thing. You can learn something very important from them. When you’re not involved in the mistake, but watching what’s going on, you can learn the lesson without actually having to deal with the consequences of the mistake. This is the situation the Canucks are in right now with Roberto Luongo. Cory Schneider is clearly the guy in Vancouver right now and Luongo has to be moved. They saw the mistake made by Scott Howson and the Columbus Blue Jackets in their handling of Rick Nash. The clock is ticking for Mike Gillis. If he doesn’t pull the trigger soon, he may end up taking a deal well below Luongo’s value.
To be fair, the trade that sent Rick Nash to the New York Rangers wasn’t that bad at all given the circumstances. But these circumstances were created by the Jackets’ assuming that if they sat on Nash, the market would get better. That was the mistake. The value of Nash was probably highest during last season’s trade deadline. When the playoffs and the Cup are at stake, a team or two is more willing to roll the dice than they are when they have the entire spring and much of the summer to think about it. Then you take the asking price hostage? GMs are just going to simply look around for other options. They get tired of waiting and don’t like seeing other players being gobbled up around them as they wait around for a GM to make his mind up.
If I were Gillis, I would have traded Luongo awhile ago.
Let’s get a thing or two straight first. He’s been criticized for “not being able to win when it counts.” Well, neither have Daniel or Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and anyone else who has played on the Canucks with Luongo. Neither have many other quality NHL players. It’s a team game. Goalies much less talented than Luongo have won the Cup (I’m looking at you, Niemi). Luongo is a good goalie. His contract, which has 10 years left at $5.333 million per season, is not. That’s one of the big issues with the trade. The other is Cory Schneider.
Schneider’s not getting any younger and needs to be a #1 NHL goalie. The Canucks decided that instead of trading Schneider and keeping Luongo, they would give Schneider a nice extension. At that moment, Luongo’s ticket out of Vancouver was punched. While it would be great from a hockey standpoint to have both players suited up every game, it makes horrible sense from a business perspective. Even if he’s not as good, when you invest that much money into something, you’d better make use of it. Given his contract, Luongo cannot be playing 35-45 games a year. The same now goes for Schneider.
That ties the hands of the Canucks a bit when trying to deal Luongo. Don’t get me wrong, I think the correct decision was made by deciding to keep Schneider, but that meant that the Canucks would have to come to terms in getting whatever they could for Luongo. A lot of things were stacked against the Canucks’ favor from the start in a potential trade, but they had to recognize that going into it.
The problem with waiting around is that teams are pretty much set up at this point. You have to head into the draft and free agency with a good plan of action. Would you plan your team around Jonathan Quick the same way you would around Semyon Varlamov? I think not. You can’t just throw Luongo onto any old team this close to the (hopeful) start of the season, sit back, and say “Perfect!” Maybe if a team had acquired Luongo earlier, they might have not spent quite so much on defense and added a little more depth up front.
The team most rumored to be in on Luongo is the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think that makes sense. They have the cap space to fit Luongo on the team without sending any salary back to Vancouver and currently only have one goalie, James Reimer, signed. Reimer has high expectations, but I’m not sure he should be trusted so early in his career. Luongo doesn’t guarantee them the playoffs or anything, but he adds stability in net that Reimer cannot yet supply. It gives Reimer time to develop at his own pace and maybe in a few years, the Leafs would have the luxury to decide whom they want between Luongo and him.
I don’t know what Vancouver could get for Luongo. Given all of the circumstances, I’d be happy to trade him for a 2nd round pick and a prospect. According to Ian Esplen, the apparent asking price is something like a first round pick, a current roster player, and maybe a prospect. That’s by no means absurd, but it hasn’t gotten a deal done yet. The last thing the Canucks want is to end up having to do someone a favor by taking Luongo (see trading Scottie Upshall and a second round draft pick for Dan Carcillo).