After a year in which the goaltending situation was, at the very least, super awkward, it’s no secret that the Canucks have to trade Roberto Luongo this summer.
It’s become Mike Gillis’s biggest boondoggle as a General Manager. The biggest obstacle isn’t necessarily even Luongo’s contract; it’s Gillis’s insistence on getting fair value in return for the beleaguered goaltender.
Luongo’s contract really isn’t as onerous as it seems and I suspect that most GMs around the league know it. A cap hit of $5.3 million is pretty reasonable for the quality of goaltending that Luongo provides year after year. But NHL GMs also love a bargain and the situation in Vancouver has them thinking they can get something for nothing. In their minds, Gillis needs to get rid of Luongo more than they need to acquire him.
So, when it was suggested that the New York Islanders might be interested in acquiring Luongo, some suggested that all Vancouver would get in return is Rick DiPietro, who the Canucks would then buy out. Now, if the Canucks got something else in return (say, a prospect like Nino Niederreiter or Brock Nelson), then that trade makes sense for the Canucks. Otherwise, it’s insanity. At that point, the Canucks may as well just buy out Luongo for a little bit more and not run the risk of the new CBA’s “Luongo rule” coming back to bite them.
That the idea that the Canucks would take DiPietro — and only DiPietro — back in a trade for Luongo was even raised as a serious possibility speaks volumes about what the media thinks of the Canucks’ situation. That’s when Darren Dreger chimed in to make the Canucks seem even more desperate, suggesting that if Luongo doesn’t get traded, he won’t even report to training camp.
Dreger made the comments on TSN 1050, with a transcript of the relevant remarks from Thomas Drance’s post over at Canucks Army:
You can’t have Luongo and Schneider back together - I don’t think Roberto will report! Honestly, I don’t. I think [Luongo] is done in Vancouver and whatever situation is put in front of him, he’s going to accept.
Drance also quoted the Sun’s Iain Macintyre about what will happen if Luongo refuses to report:
If Luongo is serious about escaping his contract, he can withhold services, which would allow the Canucks to terminate the deal. But the team would first have to place him on waivers, meaning Luongo would have no input on where he plays and could be claimed for a fee of $125.
There’s more to it than that, however. We can learn from the Tim Thomas situation what the options are if Luongo fails to report to camp.
Thomas chose to voluntarily sit out the 2012-13 season, citing personal reasons which may or may not have included a belief that the world was going to end. When he didn’t show up to training camp, he was suspended by the Bruins, without pay. He remained on their salary cap, however.
The Bruins then traded Thomas’s contract to the New York Islanders, who were all too happy to have $5 million added to their salary cap without any actual money needing to be paid. It was a cheap way to reach the salary floor.
If it comes down to it, and I sincerely doubt it will, the Canucks will be able to suspend Luongo and still trade him. At that point, it would be clear that Gillis would not be able to get any value back in a trade and would likely have to accept a conditional draft pick like in the Thomas situation. The trade would need to happen quickly at that point, as the Canucks would need the cap space with the lower salary cap for next season.
Would it ever get to the point that the Canucks would have to waive Luongo and then terminate his contract? I sincerely doubt it. There are enough teams out there that need goaltending and would also love to rid themselves of a bad contract. Since the Canucks will have two compliance buyouts and are likely to only use one of them on a current player (say, a Keith Ballard type — like Keith Ballard), that is a card they can play. But if the Canucks are giving a team Luongo and taking on a bad contract themselves, you can bet they’ll want something else significant in return.
It’s insane to think that both goaltenders from the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals would end up suspended by their teams for failure to report to training camp just a couple years later. Fortunately, it’s not likely to happen. It’s possible that all Gillis will be able to get in return for Luongo is draft picks, in which case he’d be best served getting a deal done by the 2013 entry draft.
I’ve seen conflicting reports on the subject, but it appears that I was incorrect: if Luongo were suspended by the Canucks, his contract would not count against the salary cap. Thomas’s contract only continued to count against the cap as it was signed when he was over 35. I apologize for any confusion.
This means that it wouldn’t make much sense for Luongo to refuse to report. He would be suspended, he would stop getting paid, and there wouldn’t be any significant pressure to trade him (at least, no more than usual) as his contract would no longer count against the salary cap. The Canucks would have cap relief; they just wouldn’t have the benefit of any assets they could get back in a Luongo trade.Tags: Roberto Luongo