If a Roberto Luongo trade fails to materialize, will he do the same at Canucks’ training camp?

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.

UPDATE:

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:

23 comments

  1. PB
    May 31, 2013

    I find the narrative (especially from east coast media) about Luongo’s unmovable contract, mental fragility and the anchor he represents around the neck of the Canucks bizarre. What he doesn’t have in common with many of the other millstones around the league with huge multi-year deals (DiPietro, Lecavalier, Richards, Bouwmeester) is that he has consistently performed year in and year out. The measure of his worth as a player being only based on whether or not he’s won a cup is idiotic — would you want a one-hit wonder who gets you to the Holy Grail but leaves your club less competitive year after year? Luongo’s had 11 years of GAA under 3 (mostly closer to 2.5) and save percentages in the 920 range. I find it hard to imagine that this all comest down to the Canucks “having” to get rid of his contract. The Islanders could make a serious push with all their young talent with even a hint of decent goaltending, as also the Oilers, Lightning, or Leafs. This idea that it’s charity for anyone to take Luongo’s contract is ridiculous, as also the idea that he’s not going to report.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +27 (from 27 votes)
    • Tom 1040
      May 31, 2013

      According to your narrative, PB, Luongo would have been traded long ago for top picks and a top six.

      Luongo has choked regularly in big games, which is what a lot of people remember.

      That, his contract with all those years, and perhaps a dash of anti-Gillis sentiment bubbling through the league reduces his value/”tradability”.

      In my humble opinion.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: -27 (from 37 votes)
      • Zach Morris
        June 3, 2013

        I can’t say you’re wrong, Tom, but the way you say it makes me mad.

        Speaking as one of the biggest Luongo fans in Canuck-dom, he has struggled in big games. There are indeed some losses you could pin solely on Luongo, like the game in Boston where the Bruins scored eight goals, or his losses in Chicago three and four years ago. His contract is indeed long term.

        To say he struggles “regularly” is to look at the boxscore and think that’s the full story. Luongo, like Cory Schneider or Jonathan Quick or Patrick Roy, is part of a team, and wins or loses with that team.

        Luongo has come up big in meaningful games: Games 1 and 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Game 7 Chicago, the Olympic Gold Medal game. He has wins you can put solely on him, like his first year here, when he passed Bernie Parent’s record for most wins in a single season.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: +8 (from 8 votes)
  2. Tom 1040
    May 31, 2013

    What is the ‘out’ option attached to his contract?

    Can’t the team or Luongo opt out of the contract at some point?

    It might add to the discussion as to which teams might be interested in his services.

    I ask this because I disagree with you on the onerousness of his contract. It is not just the $5.3M; it is the $5.3M for another 8 or 9 years.

    Also, is Tim Thomas coming back next season?

    Thanks.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: -18 (from 18 votes)
    • Neil B
      June 1, 2013

      The “opt out” clause in the contract is not for the contract as a whole, but for the NTC. If Luongo doesn’t ask for a trade in year 5, then the ‘Nucks can trade him sans NTC at year 7. If Luongo asks for a trade & the Nucks don’t, or can’t, trade him, then they lose the “out”.

      The contract is *less* onerous now to a non-Canucks team, as their savings on Luongo’s salary-vs-cap hit decreases for every year that he plays. Also attractive to a team that hates the Nucks management (St. Louis, Toronto, for instance) is that the longer Luongo plays, the bigger the corresponding cap penalty that will be applied to Vancouver when he does retire (unless he plays out the entire contract, which no one believes that he will do).

      In other words, the longer they keep Luongo, the better off they will be, and the worse off Vancouver will be.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: -1 (from 3 votes)
      • Tom 1040
        June 1, 2013

        Thank you very much, Neil B.

        The information you have provided is much more informative than the ‘article’ itself, 3/4 of which has been made irrelevant by the ‘unfortunate’ knowledge-based error.

        Anyway, I took a look at capgeek and the contract is still onerous: $34M pay out over the next 5 years for a goalie whose best years are behind him.

        Not for me.

        Luongo will likely still be a Canuck if salary is not eaten by same.

        In my humble opinion.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: -7 (from 9 votes)
  3. PB
    May 31, 2013

    Nowhere did I say Luongo would bring that kind of return but neither is he a giveaway. Extremes on either end make no sense.

    Lounge is the first goalie since McLean to give consistent goaltending to the Canucks. Would you have preferred more Sanford and Cloutier and Labarbera?

    Thomas said he’d like to return for 2013-2014 but that was prior to the trade to the isles

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +12 (from 12 votes)
    • Tom 1040
      May 31, 2013

      No, you didn’t say he would bring that kind of return though your account of his history strongly implied a high value return.

      If I am extreme in my translation of your glowing report on Lounge, then tell us: What do you think he would/will fetch in return explicitly?

      You are going off-topic with ‘who would [I] rather have in return.

      But, for the record, I have stated that I preferred Schneider since 2011. To be clear, I stated this in 2011 during the regular season.

      Thank you for the Tim Thomas information.

      Do you think he will return given that the Isles show promise? Interesting topic of discussion, I think.

      Any info. on the options on Luongo’s contract would also be appreciated if you come across any.

      In closing, I much prefer civil discussions. I feel we are on the verge of one.

      Best,
      T.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: -10 (from 14 votes)
  4. Sox/Canucks fan
    May 31, 2013

    This is the situation Gillis created when he signed Roberto long term, and the dilemma he will or will not work out now that he has to manage:

    What does he get more for in a trade for his two great goalies?

    One is older, excellent, and proven to most, with an anchor of a long term deal Gillis agreed to not long ago. Hard to find a trading partner who doesn’t know this

    The other has come into his prime, not proven but has shown that he is right there. May be right there with the best, but would also return more than Roberto.

    If I would have slept in it, I’d guess that would be a tough bed to make.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
    • Metaxa
      June 1, 2013

      Let us not forget that Gillis signed Roberto to the term he did at the behest of ownership.

      At the time some very smart folks, including Loo and his advisers, felt this was a good contract.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  5. PB
    June 1, 2013

    I don’t think realistically Luongo would fetch more than a 2nd and 4th rounder. The Canucks may also have to take on a little bit of salary in return, maybe $1-2 million for three years. That isn’t a knock on Luongo’s abilities or Gillis for what amounts to a pretty fair-value for a player who has outgrown his usefulness to the team but not his skills. It’s recognition of the economic realities of the league, with the imposition of the salary cap, its contraction in the next year, and the inability to carry the contracts that we will. What I don’t see is the Canucks being unique in any of this, nor in fact the NHL — we see these types of situations all the time in the NBA, for example, and in MLB.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Tom 1040
      June 1, 2013

      Now you’re talking.

      But, this seems to contradict your first post, ” Luongo’s had 11 years of GAA under 3 (mostly closer to 2.5) and save percentages in the 920 range. I find it hard to imagine that this all comest down to the Canucks “having” to get rid of his contract.”

      A 2nd and 4th rounder, plus eating salary? Sounds like pretty much a giveaway to me.

      And, please give my one point a little more consideration: Gillis is a pariah in this league to other GM’s.

      I think it is clear why.

      Hence, no one is going to do a deal with Gillis unless they really have to, or unless they can “tallon” him.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: -3 (from 5 votes)
  6. Neil B
    June 1, 2013

    What Luongo fetches in trade will depend upon what, exactly, Luongo is traded for, and what the conditions of the trade will be.

    For example, if Luongo is traded to Pittsburgh, he might fetch Fleury (for the buyout) and a couple good prospects. Alternately, if Pittsburgh buys Fleury out directly before trading for Luongo, they might trade an older, more expensive player (Kunitz, Martin, or Jokinen, for instance) and promote someone like Beau Bennett or Simon Despres to greater responsibilities. Alternately, a deal could include one or more mid-level prospects/picks, and the rights to an expiring UFA contract. The prospects/picks could be conditional upon Vancouver failing to sign the veteran.

    Alternately, Vancouver could decide that they are having a fire sale, and retain up to 30% of Luongo’s cap hit. In that case, Luongo might bring in a much higher rate of return, as Vancouver would be bearing a larger portion of the risk, along with a significant amount of cap space.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)
  7. PB
    June 1, 2013

    I don’t think Gillis is a pariah. I think it’s clear that he and Nonis don’t much care for each other, with a clear history as to why. But there’s no evidence to support the idea that no one will deal with him or that he can’t the rest of the league is just picking over the Canucks’ corpse. If it was that easy to flip onerous contracts you wouldn’t have Redden, Huet, Souray, Finger, Commodore or Leighton stashed in the minors. As I said before it’s not about extremes. There’s no way, in my opinion, that you are going to get a top-flight prospect like Neiderreiter or Huberdeau or any of the others who were bandied about (and I find it hard to imagine that the Leafs ever dangled Kadri, Gardiner or Colborne — more likely Bozak and a second). However to think that the only way that we “get rid” of Luongo is through a buyout or by taking back a huge salary I think misses the point. It does us no good to have DiPietro or Lecavalier on the books; not that it’s any of our money but why pay out to them unless the Isles or Lightning sweeten the pot? A couple of higher picks sounds about right to me and isn’t much in the way of a fire sale.

    The point of all of this is still that Luongo has some value. As his stats I mentioned previously indicate, he has not yet shown evidence of a decline in his skills. He would be a valuable addition for many teams. Yes he costs money and yes it’s a lot of money. It is still better spent than on a defenseman playing for your AHL team as Redden did for two full years.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
    • Tom 1040
      June 1, 2013

      I disagree with you on many points in your last post.

      Shall we discuss further or are you tired of our back and forth right now?

      Let me know, if you don’t mind.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 2 votes)
  8. PB
    June 2, 2013

    Yes, it’s clear that we have differing views on this which we’ve both stated. We’ll have to wait and see how the actual situation unfolds, hopefully by the time the draft rolls around.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Tom 1040
      June 2, 2013

      Indeed.

      Enough for now then.

      Take care.

      T.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
  9. Aaron
    June 2, 2013

    Very intersting conversation guys. Good points and counter pointsI do agree that there may be some dislike of Gilles by other GM’s or there may not be, but in thier position all decisions should be made for the best intrests of the club not with emotions. I don’t know what Lou will bring but if I had a chance to take my club to the next level I would sit down and deal with who ever I had to. Lou could do that for some clubs. I am very interested to see what happens.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
  10. Michael
    June 3, 2013

    Well, after the way the Penguins have imploded, Loungo and Edler would make a very nice upgrade in exchange for MAF and Letang.
    MAF gets a buy-out.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • BCISLEMAN
      June 3, 2013

      Not sure which is crazier: the notion of the Pens trading Letang for Edler or the Nucks taking back MAF in trade!

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  11. BCISLEMAN
    June 3, 2013

    Wow is this a clueless article?! The Jackets have Nash, one of the premier Fs in the game, who is 28 and at the top of his form and whose contract is FAR less onerous than the Luongo deal, and get absolutely NO frontline players or prospects. Gillis and at least part of Nucks Nation believe they can get one for a 34 year old goalie who still has game but is past his prime and who has a dreadful contract. You are living in la la land.

    Luongo and taking on the RDP contract ARE worth SOMETHING. They are NOT worth a blue chip prospect or a first round pick. The Nucks are NOT getting that kind of return on Luongo from Garth Snow or any other GM who wants to keep his job. If Gillis continues this fantasy, he will be stuck with either a holdout or a very disgruntled star in his locker room.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
    • Sox/canucks fan
      June 4, 2013

      I agree with BCIsleman. A trade of Lou for RDP or MAF does not improve the team. Canucks fans are living in a bubble if they think negotiating a trade of Luongo (the contract, not the goalie) begins with them having any leverage.

      But that’s not the subject of this piece, which is more about endgames of a more desperate sort – something Gillis might be very good at pulling off – and Luongo may be fine with. Time will tell.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
      • BCISLEMAN
        June 4, 2013

        IMHO Gillis painted himself into a corner. He started from the premise that he was going to get a windfall by trading the great Luongo. That didn’t work with Nash who is both younger and, quite frankly, more of an asset at this point.

        Probably the only two deals Gillis can make with the Isles are to simply unload Luongo for RDP and a lesser pick and prospect and buyout RDP OR send Luongo, Booth and Ballard to the Isles for RDP, Nino and some other pieces. This would help shed cap and add pieces for a “retool” to use the Feaster spin. The other thought would be to trade cap hits with Philly Luongo for Briere.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)