It's easy to look at Roberto Luongo's contract, see the 10 years remaining and say, "Good luck, Vancouver. You won't be able to trade him anywhere."
That's not necessarily true.
Jeff Carter's 11-year deal was traded twice in eight months.
The biggest factors in Luongo's case may turn out to be how much the Canucks want for him and/or what other goalies are available this summer, but here's how a market could develop:
Go through the NHL lineup. Forget his contract for a minute and just count how many teams would be better off if he played goal for them. The reason you forget the contract at the beginning is that some NHL general managers prefer to imagine the player on their roster before thinking about the financials.
That way, you decide whether or not it's worth the aggravation of figuring out how to fit him under the cap. If you don't like the guy enough, you won't bother.
Depending on your like or dislike for Luongo, there are between five and nine teams. That list undoubtedly includes what you'd expect are his top two destinations: Tampa Bay and Florida, although the Panthers have uberprospect Jacob Markstrom.
I know all you Toronto Maple Leafs lovers want to jump in here. My guess? He'd prefer someplace quieter, but it should be pointed out that Luongo has a great relationship with goaltending coach Francois Allaire -- assuming Allaire isn't quitting.
Regardless, there are teams who are going to look at Luongo and say, "He could help us."
CONTRACT COULD BE WORTH IT
Yes, Luongo has 10 years left on a 12-year deal. The most expensive season of that contract -- $10 million US in 2010-11 -- is behind him. In 2011-12, he earned $6.716 million. That's, basically, what he'll make in each of the next six seasons. The salary drop off doesn't come until 2018-19, when he'll be 39 (maybe there's a rollback in the new CBA, but who knows?).
So if you want Luongo, you must be prepared to commit $40.3 million over the next six years. Teams like Toronto or Chicago, if interested, can handle the cash payout no problem. For lower-revenue clubs, it's tougher.
Last year, I had a lengthy conversation with an NHL executive about this kind of contract and what would make it appealing for another team to take.
"You're going to be interested if he can add to your revenue," he said. "For example, if you're out of the playoffs, do you think he can get you there?
"If so, how much will more playoff home dates add to your bottom line? An improved team also increases your season-ticket sales, concessions, merchandise sales, everything. If you think he can do that for you, his contract would be worthwhile."
That's why I'm curious to see if Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is a player in this. Yzerman saw Luongo up close at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and, given the Lightning's goaltending issues of last season, he would definitely be an improvement.
Luongo handled the last couple of weeks extremely well, playing the good soldier, even though he clearly understood what was coming. And the Canucks know dropping Game 1 -- even though he played great -- was a major reason they lost their first-round playoff series to the Los Angeles Kings. I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few teams who think he'll thrive when he isn't the provincial scapegoat.
There are lots of questions here: Will a trade partner want the Canucks to take back a salary? Is Vancouver prepared to accept what doesn't look like a great "hockey deal" simply to open cap room? And, most importantly, how will the potential availability of Jonathan Bernier, Tim Thomas, Miikka Kiprusoff and/or a St. Louis goalie affect the market?
It's going to take a little while. But in the end, teams are going to take a long look at Luongo.
1. There are very good reasons for Luongo to willingly give up his no-trade. If the Canucks wanted to be absolutely ruthless -- and I don't believe they do -- they could put him on waivers next season. There is also the gamble of a contract amnesty or less-favourable buyout rules for a player in the next CBA. Smart for Luongo to play it this way.
2. The other variable here is restricted free agent Cory Schneider. Vancouver would probably love him at Carey Price's 2011-12 salary of $2.75 million. But Steve Mason's $2.9-million cap hit probably pushes it higher. Schneider's a great team guy who patiently waited for this chance. How easily does it get done?
3. There were some reports the Canucks can block a potential offer sheet for Schneider by offering him arbitration just after the Stanley Cup final (Nashville did this last season with Shea Weber). Don't believe that is true. Because Schneider earned less than $1.5 million, no action can be taken before July 5. If he and the team cannot get something signed beforehand, he will be exposed for a few days.
4. In the March 6 edition of this blog, I mentioned that Vancouver "targeted" a few players in a possible Cody Hodgson deal. Zack Kassian was one, obviously. I also noted Brandon Sutter, who the Carolina Hurricanes love, and made an educated guess at John Carlson (which appears to be true). Canucks GM Mike Gillis said Tuesday there were six players. According to a couple of sources, sounds like the fourth was Erik Gudbranson and the fifth Kyle Clifford. No. 6? Not sure.
5. Gillis, who has one more year on his contract, talked about his own future at his season-ending media conference and a meeting he'll have next week with Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini. Gillis revealed that a friend of his died recently and there was a rumour that he may choose to step down and take a break. In a very brief phone conversation Monday night, he said that is not the case (I know people are going to think he talked about some of the other stuff discussed here, but it isn't the case. He only agreed to speak on that issue).
6. Last word on Canucks: Gillis really stood up for head coach Alain Vigneault and it's clear his preference is to keep him. Still think, though, the coaching situation isn't 100 per cent settled until the two men really sit down talk about the future. What if they have different ideas about personnel or strategy moving forward?
7. Montreal Canadiens fans are drooling about the possibility of a Vigneault return but, if he isn't in Vancouver, I'd be shocked if Edmonton doesn't take a run at him.
8. One other bit of GM news. It's believed Montreal was waiting for the San Jose Sharks to finish to see if Doug Wilson would talk to them. Wilson did not return a phone call seeking comment, but people who know him say he would not be interested.
9. Kings governor Tim Leiweke told The Los Angeles Times that when head coach Darryl Sutter was hired, ownership told GM Dean Lombardi "not making the playoffs was not an option." While Leiweke would not say exactly what that meant, it's pretty much confirmation the GM was gone if Sutter didn't right the ship. You've got to give Lombardi credit for sticking with his beliefs when his hire was highly questioned.
10. Curious to see what this means for Luc Robitaille. Had the Kings missed the playoffs, he's probably their next GM. Now does he stay and continue to learn the business or pursue Montreal?
11. The four Western Conference teams who lost in the first round had a dozen 60-point men between them. (San Jose: Thornton; Couture; Marleau; Pavelski. Chicago: Hossa; Sharp; Kane. Detroit: Zetterberg; Datsyuk; Filppula. Vancouver: the Sedins.) The four winners? They had three in Ray Whitney, Anze Kopitar and Radim Vrbata.
12. Those 12 players all had more points than the Nashville Predators' leading scorer Martin Erat. You can add Jonathan Toews and Johan Franzen as those who had more than the St. Louis Blues' co-leaders David Backes and TJ Oshie.
13. Which way will the rest of the West go? Nashville was eighth in the NHL in goals and featured the league's best power play, but Phoenix was 18th, St. Louis 21st and Los Angeles second-last. Do the vanquished go to offence by committee? Or...
14. Are the biggest first-round winners Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson and Rick Nash? Look at all the aggressive spenders who lost early. Will they chase Nash, the kind of power forward needed to counter the Western teams who won, ie. strong, aggressive and smothering over multiple lines? As another GM said, "Even if Zach Parise hits the market, there's not a lot else out there."
15. San Jose is one of the teams Nash would like to go to and the Sharks could use him. "They looked old," said one coach. Wilson doesn't believe in long-term deals, so there is flexibility. Only eight players, all from the core, are signed past next year and only two (Brent Burns, Martin Havlat) into 2015.
16. There are a few guys on the Sharks roster who've played a ton of hockey. Joe Thornton continues to compete hard, but is entering season No. 16 at age 33. Same with Patrick Marleau, who had a scoreless playoff. Havlat, 31, enters year 13. Dan Boyle is about to turn 36. Do Pavelski and Couture have anything coming behind them in the pipeline?
17. Detroit is interesting. Rivals think the Red Wings will be very proactive. You can't mention them without hearing, "They're going to be bidding for [Ryan] Suter and Parise." Teams are uncertain about spending because of the looming CBA, but even if the cap drops to $55 million (for argument's sake), they are in a decent spot. Their best prospects, aside from Brendan Smith and maybe Gustav Nyquist, are a couple years away.
18. I'm curious to see if Detroit makes Valtteri Filppula available. Before the Nashville series, Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock had a heart-to-heart with him, saying he'd had a great year, but a strong post-season performance was needed. While linemate Henrik Zetterberg was very good, Filppula had just two assists in five games.
19. Ultimately, the No. 1 factor in Nicklas Lidstrom's future is if he wants to put himself through everything it takes to get ready for the season. I mentioned on The Hotstove that he may leave if close friend Tomas Holmstrom retires -- a theory that, apparently, was backed up by Chris Chelios on NHL Live.
20. I did ask a couple of opponents who see a lot of Detroit if Lidstrom made any concession to age this season. They saw one. At times, the gap between him and his forwards was wider than normal. He was protecting himself against the speed of opposing forwards. The funniest thing about these conversations, though, is that no one wants to say anything perceived as remotely negative about Lidstrom. He is so respected.
21. Joel Quenneville's $10,000 fine for ripping the referees the night that Raffi Torres hit Marian Hossa was ridiculed, especially since players can only get chopped $2,500. But look at it this way: the fine was half of what John Tortorella got at the end of the regular season and coaches were warned they'd be hammered if this happened during the playoffs. It's almost as if the league said, "We've got to do something to prevent it from happening again, but our heart's not really in this one."
22. Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero said in his season-closer that signing Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal were priorities, although he didn't know if it could be accomplished without knowing the landscape. Both are one year away from unrestricted free agency. There are a surprising amount of people who think Staal wants a bigger challenge and more responsibility, which won't make him easy to sign. I'm not sure he's a No. 1 centre, but he'd be an outstanding No. 2 and there would be a ton of interest.
23. Shero has also said on numerous occasions that versatility is critical in the salary-cap era. They don't come much more versatile than Staal. Prediction: He only gets dealt if he makes it hard for the Penguins to sign him. I'd hate to be the one trading this guy.
24. As Shero, head coach Dan Bylsma and Pittsburgh's hockey operations department break down the season, here is a stat they must explain. Crosby returned March 15 and, to that point, the Penguins had allowed 2.5 goals per game. Afterwards, it rose to 3.9, including playoffs. Getting him back should never be a negative, but you wonder if there's some kind of problem assimilating him into the lineup.
25. One NHL coach doesn't think Crosby is the issue: "They started to believe their press clippings and lost attention to detail."
26. When the Penguins won it all in 2009, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury gained enormous internal respect for how he overcame an awful 5-0 Game 5 loss to Detroit in the Stanley Cup fial. Fleury gave up one goal in each of the last two games -- a pair of 2-1 victories that won it all for Pittsburgh. There were people in the organization who said they would never doubt his mental toughness after witnessing that. The team's won one round since and his save percentage during that time is .880. Finding the proper fix is of paramount importance.
27. Cory Clouston may no longer be in Ottawa, but he sent his former team a great gift: Mark Stone. "Very competitive. Very intelligent," Clouston, who coaches the Brandon Wheat Kings, wrote in an email. "Much better defensively than he used to be and what people give him credit for."
28. The Ottawa Senators drafted Jakob Silfverberg because they liked his multi-faceted offensive game (natural goal scorer, heavy shot, strong on the puck, very good off the cycle). But what's really impressed them is his willingness to get stronger and improve his compete level. Andreas Dackell, who played in Ottawa from 1996-2001, played with Silfverberg in Sweden and said the newest Senator took his training very seriously.
29. Both Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson and centre Jason Spezza say head coach Paul MacLean excels at knowing how to push their buttons. In Game 6, he benched the latter and singled out Alfredsson for committing a public display of frustration. Think those two will be wired to play Game 7?
30. Beautiful gesture by the New York Rangers to honour fallen firefighter Richard Nappi, who died last week fighting a blaze in Brooklyn. Nappi was a 9/11 hero -- he raced to the towers on his day off -- and a Rangers season-ticket holder for the last 18 years. The team draped black armbands around Section 306, where he sat for home games.
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