The Roberto Luongo trade, like the CBA, is being negotiated in public

By now, you could probably publish an anthology of the digital ink that’s been spilled speculating on Roberto Luongo’s next destination, and not just some sissy course-pack. This thing would rival the Norton Shakespeare with the writing of Thomas Drance alone — in the past month, at that.

Yeah, we’re still talking about Funny Bob. If you thought that the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement and the delay in getting a new one might put this topic on the back burner — especially since it’s literally impossible for Luongo to be traded right now — think again. Last week, John Shannon got things started right back up by saying that a deal to the Toronto Maple Leafs “done”.

What he meant, since he’s as aware as anybody that you can’t trade players without a CBA and hockey totally doesn’t have one of those right now, was that it’s “all but done”. I spoke to him on the phone over the weekend, and he clarified: “Here’s what I truly believe: with the information that I have, once the collective bargaining agreement is done and all the rules and regulations are in place, that a deal between Brian Burke and the Canucks will be made.”

Mike Gillis has since issued a full denial of Shannon’s report, but Shannon stuck to his guns in a Sportsnet piece over the weekend. Granted, this line tripped me up somewhat:

“I do not know who or what [Luongo] will be traded for, and believe it or not, I don’t think general managers Mike Gillis and Brian Burke know either. The rules of any new collective bargaining agreement will dictate the actual transaction.”

In other words, the deal is only all but done in the sense that it’s not done at all? Right on.

Gillis and Burke are negotiating, though, and I would suggest that the last five days aren’t just evidence of that — they are that. This deal, like the CBA, is being negotiated in public.

After all, while some trade rumours are completely made up, (it’s quite easy!) others are strategically planted as a means of gaining leverage. In the case of Burke and Gillis, there is plenty to be gained.

The two GMs are in similar situations. Both lost a lot of face last year after their franchises performed below the expectations of the fanbase and, considering the fanbases involved, neither will be forgiven if the same occurs again this year. A Luongo trade could be the answer on both ends. Most pundits agree that acquiring Luongo turns the Maple Leafs into a playoff team. Meanwhile, trading Luongo should reap the piece or pieces the Canucks need to make another major run at the Stanley Cup.

Gillis and Burke know this, and their fans know it too, which is why the GMs have been coyly stringing them along since April. There’s pressure to act from both fanbases. It’s why their offers keep coming out. It’s why these names keep flying around.

Speaking of which, here are the new names, courtesy Thomas Drance. From Canucks Army:

I find it interesting that Cox and Botch’s reports by and large corroborate each other. Where Botchford says that the Canucks counter offer at the draft included “Gardiner-plus-plus-plus,” Damien Cox does some rumour algebra, and produces three assets: a first round pick, Matt Frattin and Tyler Bozak.

Of course, the corroboration only goes so far, and the writer writing for a Vancouver audience brought up super sized prospect Joe Colborne as a possible centre piece, while the writer writing for a Toronto audience claimed that the replacement level Tyler Bozak is the object of Vancouver’s desire. But I think it’s pretty likely that Botchford and Cox are both talking about the same Vancouver counter proposal, and I think it’s probable that their sources on this are sound.

My guess, since Colborne is the same size, age, and position as Nick Bjustad, whom the Canucks were asking from Florida, and Bozak is effectively Andrew Ebbett but worse defensively, is that the Canucks are asking for Colborne, the Leafs are offering Bozak, and these public negotiations are one side’s way of forcing the other side to acquiesce.

Who will cave? My money is on the Maple Leafs, especially if we get a half-season instead of a full one. While Gillis looked foolish for holding Luongo through the draft, then through the summer, and finally right into the lockout, this thing is starting to turn in his favour like a bad joke repeated until it becomes funny again. Brian Burke needs the Leafs to make the playoffs, and as as the games fall off the schedule and the margin of error in a lockout-shortened season slims, his need to have his goaltending situation shored up from day one becomes more and more glaring.

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6 comments

  1. DanD
    October 22, 2012

    This is a really interesting piece! Thanks for the read.

    Both of these guys remind me of Jack Donaghee from 30 Rock. I was just imagining Jack negotiating against himself as I read it.

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  2. Gimmic
    October 22, 2012

    Great article. Totally agree, I think some of it is being negotiated publicly.

    It will come down to:
    a) is Gillis serious when he said he’d keep both goaltenders
    b) is Burke serious when he said he’s comfortable with Reimer/Scrivens

    I’m guessing a is true, but b isn’t. Cap doesn’t change for year 1, so the Canucks don’t need to dump cap space (Luongo). But Burkes team hasn’t made the playoffs since before the last lockout and there is new ownership. Not to mention, Toronto isn’t the only team calling.

    I realize both Burke and Gillis are adults, businessmen and somewhat mature. But I still can’t imagine a scenario where Gillis trades his #1 goalie to a team that Burke runs. I can’t imagine Gillis wanting to help Burke in any way, shape or form. I think he’d trade Luongo to a team for a lesser package, just to avoid shipping him to Toronto. Not only would Canucks fans be reminded of the trade every Sat night on HNIC, but these 2 men aren’t fans of each other. I just don’t see a fit. I do however, see Gillis using Burke to adjust the asking price, then selling him to another team. Then Canuck fans planting a bronze statue of Gillis outside of Rogers Arena. *snicker snicker*

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    • Harrison Mooney
      October 23, 2012

      My theory on Gillis and Burke: both are serious. But they would hate for it to come to that. It’s like standing at 16 in Blackjack. It’s just prudent enough that you’ll live with it, but you know full well your chances of scoring the victory are slim.

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    • John in Marpole
      October 23, 2012

      I personally don’t want the Canucks to do anything to improve the Make Beliefs. So my opinion may be a little, no make that *is* a lot biased. But I also don’t think that either Gillis or Burke would refuse to do a trade with one another if they firmly believed that their team would benefit. The underlying motivation for a GM to make any sort of trade is to benefit their team, and they’d do a deal with anyone if by doing so they’d improve their team.

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  3. rvtBC
    October 23, 2012

    Well, if Burke needs the Leafs to make the playoffs and it is a shortened season (which is fine by me), is getting a notorious slow starter like Luongo that good an idea?

    What if Lu has one of his typical Sept./October slow starts but it happens in January/February, assuming that’s when the shortened season starts. That leaves a lot of less time for Lu to round into his typical elite form we’ve witnessed here in Vancouver and make up ground on other teams.

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  4. akidd
    October 23, 2012

    my money is on gillis. he is obviously the smarter gm and the one playing with more chips. myself, i would’ve caved at the draft but not gillis. he will get what he wants in return or he will keep lou. at this point i think either is a fine option. I’m good with a true 50/50 split in net for a year. that year should’ve been last year(except for re-establishing lou’s cred) but why split hairs? and no thanks on bozak.

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