No, the Canucks are not going to buy out Roberto Luongo

When the new CBA finally gets ratified this weekend, it will reportedly include two compliance buyouts in the 2013 or 2014 off-seasons. These buyouts are designed to help teams get under the new, lower salary caps for the following seasons. The cap in 2013-14 will apparently be $64.3 million, a drop of $5.9 million from the current cap, which would potentially present a problem for those teams that spend to the cap.

Such as, for instance, the Vancouver Canucks. As is, the Canucks still have a bit of room under the revised salary cap, but have several UFAs to re-sign, the biggest being Alex Edler. The buyouts in the new CBA would give the Canucks some options for creating the necessary cap space for Edler’s raise, as well as giving them an out on any contracts that they might regret.

This brings me to something I can’t believe I actually need to say: Roberto Luongo will not be one of those buyouts.

There have been a few different people that have suggested Luongo will get bought out under the new CBA, but these suggestions have mostly been based on misinformation or misunderstandings of how buyouts work. For instance, Ian Esplen over at Hockey Buzz suggested that there might be a loophole that would allow the Canucks to buy out Luongo and re-sign him at a lower cap hit. I can say with almost 100% certainty that such a loophole does not exist. After the last lockout, teams were not allowed to re-sign players they bought until after the following season.

But now it’s coming from people who should know better. Brian Lawton is the former Vice President of Hockey Operations and General Manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since being fired from that position, he’s been working with Sportsnet and has been recently tweeting out a number of details from the new CBA, which is great.

He’s also been tweeting out some of his personal opinions, at least one of which is terrible.


Lawton isn’t the only one. Mark Zwolinski with the Toronto Star listed Luongo as a potential buyout along with, of all people, Alex Edler. First of all, Edler can’t be bought out. He’s a UFA at the end of this season, which is when the compliance buyouts start. Suggesting that Edler might be bought out is the most bizarre thing he could have suggested, apart from maybe suggesting the Canucks might try to buy out Marc Chouinard again.

But back to Luongo. He won’t be bought out. It’s baffling to even suggest it. Buying out Luongo at the end of this season would cost the Canucks over $27 million, spread out over 18 years. Yes, the Aquilinis are wealthy, but it would be absolutely moronic for them to spend that kind of money for no return.

The only benefit of buying out Luongo would be getting the $5.3 million in cap space. Know what else would free up that cap space? Trading him.

Trading Luongo also wouldn’t cost the Canucks $27 million in actual money. It would also bring back valuable assets, such as a second-line winger, third-line centre, top-four defenceman, a backup goaltender, or any combination of the above.

The only way that buying out Luongo makes sense is if he has no trade value whatsoever. As in, none. As in, the Canucks offered him up to the entire NHL for a 9th round draft pick and no one took them up on it, even though the draft doesn’t even have a 9th round anymore.

Look, I understand that the lockout was long and that we’re all a little out of practice when it comes to talking hockey, but let’s stretch out the groins of our punditry and try to get it together, you guys.

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  1. akidd
    January 7, 2013

    the toronto star is obviously negotiating on burke’s behalf. maybe lawton is too.

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  2. Sean
    January 7, 2013

    An article so bad even Damien Cox has nothing to do with it.

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  3. Qris
    January 7, 2013

    Of course the Canucks won’t buy Luongo out, but it’s nice that they can.

    Talking about potential Luongo trades has been interesting. Luongo is a franchise goaltender, and such a player would be an asset to any team. There’s a large group of people who are talking about a large return for him in a trade — not just picks and prospects, but a valuable roster player.

    There’s also a very large group of people who see things differently. In their mind, Luongo’s contract is nigh-unmovable. They see him as a Wade Redden, a Scott Gomez, or a Brian Campbell. They also see him as someone the Canucks have no choice but to trade immediately. He’ll cause turmoil in the locker room, blah blah blah. Luongo is a liability and any team willing to swoop in and take him off the Canucks’ hands would be greeted as a savior. In their minds, the Canucks have no negotiating strength whatsoever, and the only way to move him would be to take on a similar godawful contract (Toronto fans seem to think the Canucks are going to take Lombardi off their hands).

    It’s sort of impressive, some people expecting an asset-for-asset swap and others expecting an albatross-for-albatross swap. The cool thing about the buyouts is, no one can say the Canucks have to trade Luongo. If he were really such a liability, the Canucks could just get rid of him.

    I don’t think any GMs actually see Luongo as a liability, but someone like Brian Burke could readily use that perception to his advantage in trade talks. The buyouts eliminate the liability argument.

    The Toronto Star should have suggested Ballard as a buyout. That’d have been credible.

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  4. Dave Robinson (@dcrwrites)
    January 7, 2013

    I look at it this way: Ballard’s a valid buyout option because he’s become a 5/6 D (if not 7th) at over $4M a year. That’s way more than the role is worth.

    Lu is a top-ranked goaltender with a cap hit of 5.3M, and while his contract is too long, his cap hit is in line with his abilities, if not a little low. In fact, as long as his cap hit moves with his contract (and he’s willing to move in the later part of his career) he’s going to bring value right to the end of the contract by potentially giving a cash-poor team much-needed cap hit to reach the floor (which will rise) without excessive salary.

    It’s not perfect, but his valuation is solid.

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  5. Mt
    January 7, 2013

    The only reason to ever buy someone out is if they are worth less than nothing to you and to anyone else …. as in, no one will give you anything for him. In fact a give away trade (trading said player plus somone with some value for someone with even less value than you’re second player) is better than a buyout if your team values cash (most do).

    Imagine Lu was on waivers. He wouldn’t make it past 2 teams. And that would be free! I think at this point I’d fire Lawton no matter what job he’s doing now just for being so grossly under-qualified for his last one.

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  6. Tengeresz
    January 7, 2013

    I’m glad to be back talking actual hockey issues, and what the Canucks might do to win it all.

    On Topic:
    As usual Daniel, you are correct: This post states what should be obvious but apparently is not.

    More interesting to ponder:
    There have been several suggestions on the interwebs that Luongo will start with the Canucks, help the Ginger Jesus deal with all the back-to-back games a condensed schedule is likely to produce, and rise in (at least relative) value to the teams who need a big move to make the playoffs (Toronto) or get out of the first round (especially Florida, but almost everyone else, based on who LA knocked out last season).

    My reading of GMMG is that he is not in a hurry, and will eventually get a good deal, or at least extract the maximum value out of the situation (ie. a trade deadline deal for a top prospect or two and free up cap space for next year).

    There is a lot of hockey left to play (YAY!) before any deal has to be done, and a lot could happen before then. A bad streak, or a serious injury (God Forbid) to the new boy in town and Bobby Lu is money in the bank, rather than wasted cap space on the bench. In that horrible scenario Luongo would be a lock to stay with the team through to the SCF win that would seal his career.

    I don’t really see Luongo with the Canucks in the playoffs, but I would be even more surprised to see him traded to (insert bottom feeding team here) for a bag of pucks so they can buy out Ballard and sign some shmuck UFA. The back office have been wizards of cap management so far, no reason to expect any less of them in the future.

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  7. jdm
    January 8, 2013

    I agree. This same argument applies to Calgary and Jay Bouwmeester. All you have to do is ask yourself, “could the GM of the team get a 7th round draft pick in return for this player?” If the answer to this question is “yes”, then the player will not be bought out.

    The flip side of the Luongo / Bouwmeester insanity are players like Ballard for the Canucks and Stajan for the flames. While someone might be willing to give Ballard another shot, it’s conceivable that there’s no GM out there that wants to spend 4.25M per season in cap room on a guy who MIGHT be able to play top 4 minutes. So he might not be worth a 7th rounder with his contract. Same applies to Stajan, who is about replacement-level but is paid 3.5M against the cap. Those players might be bought out.

    Regardless, if Mike Gillis called up Brian Burke this morning and said, “We’ll give you Luongo for a 7th round pick”, the blue and white #1 jerseys would be printing by noon.

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  8. chicken chick
    January 8, 2013

    The dumbest thing the Nucks could do
    Is trade away our Bobby Lu
    As you will very shortly see
    Schneider’s not all he’s thought to be

    With Jenny Wren I have this bet
    Within six games he’s back in net
    And when our record’s one and five
    Luongo brings our hopes alive

    If these thoughts should you amuse
    And to “dislike” them you should choose
    Remember in a week or so
    ‘Twas I who saw how things will go

    And when we win this shortened season
    Old number one will be the reason

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  9. TeeJay
    January 8, 2013

    Find Your Way Back,Find Your Way Back To A Heart!!!!

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