On Darren Dreger and the Canucks’ real trade deadline asking price for Roberto Luongo

The real story of the trade deadline was the trades that weren’t made, particularly when it came to two big-name goaltenders in the Northwest Division. Both Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo were rumoured to be heading to the Toronto Maple Leafs at various points throughout the day. Neither did.

The attitudes of the two goaltenders as rumours swirled couldn’t have been more different. Kiprusoff simply didn’t want to be traded. He might even retire in the off-season. Luongo clearly wanted nothing more than to be traded so that he could start playing hockey again, leading to one of the most honest and blunt press conferences in recent memory.

So why, exactly, didn’t Luongo get traded? Luongo himself seemed to think that it was because of his contract, while Mike Gillis said it wasn’t a stumbling block and that discussions have centred around picks and players. Exactly what picks and players is unclear, though one particular rumour quickly spread after the trade deadline had passed. Darren Dreger initially reported that the Canucks were looking to acquire Ben Scrivens and two second round draft picks in return for Roberto Luongo, a report that was echoed by Pierre LeBrun, Jason Botchford, and Kevin McGran, among others.

Dreger appeared on TSN 1050 on Monday, however, and threw a big ol’ wrench into the works, apparently revealing what the Canucks were originally seeking in a trade with the Leafs and throwing his original report into doubt in the process.

From our perspective, the original report was strange. If all the Canucks were going to get in a Luongo trade was draft picks and a backup goaltender to fill Luongo’s spot on the bench, then it didn’t make any sense to make the trade at the deadline. The Canucks could instead keep Luongo for the remainder of the year, a far better insurance policy than Ben Scrivens if Cory Schneider gets injured, and look to make a trade in the off-season at the draft when teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and Florida Panthers might be more open to wheeling and dealing.

It simply doesn’t make sense for a contending team to make a deal at the trade deadline that doesn’t, at least theoretically, improve the team for the current season. Even the Cody Hodgson trade, which was derided as sacrificing the present for the future, made some sort of sense in the short term in light of the Samuel Pahlsson trade, even if it ended up not working out at all in the playoffs. It may have been a misguided move, but you could see some sort of logic there. Trading Luongo for draft picks at the trade deadline just didn’t add up.

Is it possible that the Canucks asked for Scrivens and two second round picks? Sure. It’s entirely possible that Gillis just wanted to get a deal done, regardless of whether it helped the team this season or not. Brian Burke once waived Ilya Bryzgalov in order to keep a promise to move him. But it didn’t jibe with what Gillis has maintained all along this season: that the Canucks are in no rush to make a deal.

Monday afternoon on TSN Drive, Dreger discussed the topic of Vancouver’s asking price once again:

At one point in that 45 minute discussion, I was told that Vancouver wanted Tyler Biggs and was told, ‘No, not available.’ Okay, then Joe Colborne. ‘All right, what else?’ Clarke MacArthur, Ben Scrivens, and a second round draft pick. And Toronto said, ‘No, we’re not doing that, we’re not giving you a roster player or prospects, we’ve got to come up with something that is less specific.’ Then they got down to Scrivens and the two seconds, or whatever it ended up being and Toronto asked for money to be retained: a million dollars per year.

Aiming for a prospect like Colborne (or Biggs) and a useful roster player like MacArthur to go with a replacement goaltender and a draft pick is the kind of deal that makes sense for both the present and the future, giving the Canucks a winger that can play on the second or third line right now, a big centre that could be NHL-ready next season, and the potential of a second round draft pick. MacArthur is also a pending UFA, so it makes sense to request him back in a trade. From the Canucks’ perspective, this would be a fairly decent return for Luongo.

That makes it even more doubtful in my mind that the Canucks ended up coming down to Scrivens and two second round picks. Essentially, the Canucks would have moved from MacArthur and Colborne down to a second round pick. Again, it’s possible, but it doesn’t make sense to make that trade at the deadline, particularly when they were apparently aiming for a roster player that could help them right away.

It’s important to take what Dreger has to say about the Leafs with a grain or two of salt, since he is Dave Nonis’s cousin, but it’s not like he’s an unreliable source, and he certainly has legitimate sources within the organization. The question isn’t whether Dreger’s sources are reliable, however, but whether Dreger’s sources have an agenda.

This isn’t at all unique to Toronto and Dave Nonis — NHL general managers fight their battles through the media all the time — though Dreger being related to Nonis makes their situation unique. It’s certainly a tactic that Gillis has used in the past.

What I find fascinating about Dreger’s quote from TSN Drive, is that even he seems to question whether the Canucks requested Scrivens and picks, saying, “Then they got down to Scrivens and the two seconds, or whatever it ended up being.”

Whatever it ended up being? Dreger is the one who reported it in the first place, initially on Twitter and then in more detail on TSN.

It’s hard, at this point, to know what to believe. There has been very little noise made out of the Canucks’ camp since the post-deadline press conference. Frankly, that makes sense from the Canucks’ perspective: with the trade deadline over, there’s very little to be gained by extending the conversation about Luongo, and the team would certainly prefer that the conversation heading into the playoffs is, you know, playoff-related.

But when the playoffs are over, we can expect this drama and its multifarious conflicting reports to boil right back up again.

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  1. cram it, charron
    April 9, 2013

    the problem with dreger is that when he says something other than what a source tells him to say (and he NEVER names the source, unlike MacKenzie) is that it’s something stupid like “Marc-Andre Fleury is a Vezina candidate”.

    Dreger has been hitting an Eklund-like batting average for some time now and I take anything he says with a grain of salt right now. His lockout reporting made it painfully obvious that team officials use him to influence discussion.

    but people see him as an “insider” and even though he’s done nothing resembling actual journalism in the longest time, people often talk about him being on the same level as MacKenzie, which is, frankly, ridiculous.

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  2. Kyle
    April 9, 2013

    I think Dreger got Nonis in trouble for the Scrivens+2 2nds leak. Strong voices within the Leafs organization want Luongo and not taking him for such a cheap price made Nonis look incompetent (and it was – could have got an elite asset for 30 cents on the dollar).

    The timing of this new report, shortly after the trade deadline says two things to me:
    1. People in the Leafs still want Lu and are still trying to affect the market.
    2. Dreger is trying to soften perceptions of his cousin by leaking a package that makes Nonis’ refusal look less foolish.

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  3. Dave Robinson (@dcrwrites)
    April 9, 2013

    I don’t trust anything Dreger says about any potential Luongo deal. There’s just too much bias there, whether deliberate or not.

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  4. Scott W
    April 9, 2013

    I won’t trust Dreger when it comes to being an “insider” for the Leafs. Nonis is his 2nd cousin. Then you consider that Bell owns not only TSN but the Maple Leafs. To me reporting on a team that your company owns while you have a family member as GM makes your credibility go down the drain. I mean is that not a conflict of interest? Against journalistic ethics? He could lie about a Luongo deal to lower the price for his cousin’s team & also bring ratings to TSN.

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  5. akidddddd
    April 9, 2013

    “NHL general managers fight their battles through the media all the time”

    do tell.

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  6. J21
    April 9, 2013

    Frankly, that makes sense from the Canucks’ perspective: with the trade deadline over, there’s very little to be gained by extending the conversation about Luongo, and the team would certainly prefer that the conversation heading into the playoffs is, you know, playoff-related.

    Now the media has to come up with their annual “playoff narratives”, of course. Like how the Canucks don’t “want it enough” because of too many non-Canadian players, or how scoring goes down because of the aforementioned foreigners-stealing-our-jobs (instead of, you know, scoring going down for everyone as the officials forget how to do their jobs).

    And then of course there is the very original and thought-provoking “what teams are whiners and divers?” because these two (apparently linked) items depend on a team’s jersey, as opposed to individual players. Which team is this year’s team which is “too young to know any better and overachieve?” Because that’s definitely the type of thing that happens in real life.

    Let’s also not forget about CBC reminding us how “unliked” we are (as compared to fine, upstanding citizens like Tim Thomas), and the subtext how this totally has nothing to do with a bunch of Albertans running the sports programming on a network based in the cold part of the country which already grumbles about BC all the time.

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    • EllynBleu
      April 10, 2013

      Clap clap clap clap clap! Yup, the media barrage starts. And don’t forget all the riot comments.
      Or reminding us of the number of Cups we have/don’t have.
      No mention made of the titles earned to date.
      Yessir, the negative comments from the media are beginning to swirl.

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  7. dougster
    April 9, 2013

    The revised story sounds more realistic even if it is still speculation. The Leafs are looking like they just might make the playoffs this year, but can you imagine the ****storm in Toronto if they don’t because their goaltending doesn’t hold up down the stretch? It made too much sense to trade for Luongo–that’s why it didn’t happen. At this point I would be shocked if a deal happens before the draft with the Leafs–the Flyers I think are the best bet, and they have assets to trade as well.

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  8. J210
    April 10, 2013

    Just to play devil’s advocate, there is a very simple explanation for Gillis offering Lou for Scrivens and picks.

    Perhaps Lou’s trade value has been declining since last summer and the GM has decided to try and just cut bait.

    Moving a contract this large is best left for the summer no doubt. But MG had last summer and the week before the regular season started to trade Lou and he didn’t do it.

    There is good reason to be skeptical of Dreger conisdering his relationship with Nonis. But the story hasn’t really been refuted by other reputable reporters, has it?

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