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Do the Leafs need a three-way to make the Luongo deal happen?

Those who follow VLM no I’m not a Luongo guy.  Tremendously talented goalie, yes, but for me (and I know many disagree), he failed the stress test when it came to playoff reliability these last few seasons in Vancouver.  And he did so behind a really, really strong Vancouver team—a squad that is light years ahead of anything the Maple Leafs will be in the next couple of seasons, if we do an honest appraisal of the two rosters.

So while I do not see Luongo as a guy who will take us to a championship, I concede that there seems to be significant fan demand for his acquisition—and Leaf management has obviously already tried to deal with Mike Gillis on this very subject.  So my concerns matter little.  There is a strong desire to bring Luongo here (though the goalie himself has supposedly crossed the Leafs off his list).

But how does it happen? 

I posted a column late last week that attempted to forecast what the Leafs would actually do heading into the draft and the opening of the trade period and free-agency.  A couple of things I mentioned already came to pass (the Leafs drafting a defenseman instead of a forward; trading Luke Schenn…).  But I also said in my “forecast” that Gillis would rather eat tin than trade Luongo to the Leafs, and I still feel that is the case.

That said, it is clear the Vancouver GM is determined to deal Luongo, and just as clear that the Leafs want him here. While many thoughtful VLM commentators have been saying that there is no way Gillis should be able to extract anything of real value from the Leafs— given Luongo’s albatross of a contract and his public desire to get out of Dodge/Vancouver very quickly—Gillis clings stubbornly (and I would, too, in his shoes) to the hope that he can extract an old-fashioned hockey deal from this mess.  And by old-time hockey deal, I mean something like Schenn for van Riemsdyk, where players are exchanged because both teams have a need and are prepared to give something of quality to receive something worthwhile in return—not because they have to make the cap space work.

The Leafs offering a bad contract and a 5th round draft pick in exchange for Luongo doesn’t really meet Gillis’ objective, does it?  Lou was, supposedly, the world’s best goalie (at least thought of as such as recently as 18 months ago, post-2010 Olympics) and while Luongo’s contract is absurdly long, people have tried to convince me that, over the next few years, it is not as unwieldy as it appears to be on the surface.  I guess I'll accept that at face value, because, well, I can’t really do math.  Never could.

Now, Gillis does have the luxury (assuming Luongo doesn’t implode in some fashion- and why would he; he can surely hide temporary unhappiness while wearing a baseball cap for five and a half million dollars a season, can’t he?) to hang onto the goalie for a while yet.  So if necessary, Gillis can retain Lou until, if worse comes to worst, the trade deadline in late winter, 2013.  Surely some NHL team will face goalie misery or injuries, and will want a goaltender who can get them into the playoffs, or even further than that- if they believe Luongo can get their team to the promised land.

That said, the Leafs may have a similar luxury, if Burke’s tandem of Reimer and Scrivens performs as they have shown they can- and as the organization hopes.  Maybe they won’t “need” Luongo.

But if things don't go as hoped in Toronto, well, we would then have a different and much more urgent issue here come January/February, eh?

My guess is this:  a deal gets done for Luongo with some team before training camp.  Maybe it’s today, maybe two months from now.  I have no idea.  But it gets done.  Gillis is looking for a dance partner and there aren't that many right now who have the cap space—or the desire to give up useful assets in return for Luongo.  (To be clear, if Luongo was a UFA, there would of course be a number of teams who would come knocking on his door…)

Since I just don’t believe Gillis will deal Luongo to a team unless he can sell it to his team's fans in Vancouver, I particularly don’t think he will ship the veteran goalie to Toronto, of all places, unless he can save face.  He will only trade directly with Burke and Nonis if he clearly is perceived to “win” any Luongo trade, or at least not, in the short-term, come away looking as though he lost the deal to a Canadian (and personal) arch-rival.

So where does that leave us?  All I can think of is an old-fashioned three-way deal.  Who would the other teams be?  Could it be that we send something to, say, cap-strapped Chicago (young assets, but not that much), who in turn send Vancouver an acceptable player (Sharp?) in return for Luongo, who ends up here in Toronto?

The names (e.g. Sharp) and what we would actually send to another team, hey, I’m just throwing darts out there.  But my serious point is that maybe the only way this actually gets done, besides Luongo being willing to come here, is if another team is part of this and all three teams (I was just using the Hawks as an example) get something they want/need- and everyone can look good to their respective fan constituencies.

Does this make any sense to you?


  1. I listened to an interesting interview today which discussed Luongo's only posible destinations as Toronto and Florida.

    I'll give you my three way deal: Luongo goes to Florida for whatever they can work out and we take Jose Theodore and his one year term...which suits us about perfect.

    After a year we should be able to determine exactly where and how Scrivens and Remier fit in. Neither young player gets rushed and we can always overpay Theodore for a longer term if he works out really well.

  2. Florida may be one of the possible connections as you mention, DP...something will definitely happen. Luongo may have to expand his "list" if he wants to be moved this summer.

  3. I'm so unconvinced Luongo's the man for us that I'd rather start the season with Reimer and Scrivens, neither of whom have proven themselves at the NHL level. I think a three-way makes sense, but I'd rather go straight up with St Louis. What would it take to get Halak and Backes?

  4. I like your thinking on Halak, Gerund O'. We know consistency is an issue with him, but we also know he can play.

  5. I actually love DP's idea about taking Theodore for a year, though I have my doubts considering Florida is high on Jacob Markstrom. Having Theodore for a little while longer while JM develops probably suits their plans in the exact same way it would suit us.

    I'd be more comfortable starting the season with Reimer/Scrivens if we instead figure out a way to get a true shut-down defenceman and bolster our powerplay. Reimer's even-strength numbers were, as many constantly point out, not all that bad. I do believe he can return to form with a competent, grittier Carlyle defence in front of him.

    It's a horrible feeling, however, knowing that half of Leafs nation thinks we can improve with little tweaks and the other half calling for blockbuster deals involving stud goalies, stud D-men, and a #1 C. But after we inexplicably fell apart last season, I guess nobody is sure of anything anymore.

  6. It's so true, Steve, that last season's collapse has kind of thrown everything into the mixer. It turned hopeful fans into frustrated ones, and pushed those already pessimistic into an even more sombre frame of mind.

    I like Reimer a lot. I keep saying it. I still believe he can play. Plenty of goalies have "off-seasons" and I won't even acknowledge it was that, since the guy was hurt all year long.

    Good post, thanks Steve.

  7. There's something many people are overlooking that comes into play here.

    The option to "wait and see" with Reimer and Scrivens and bring in a guy like Theodore for the season is...well. Not really an option.

    Neither Scrivens nor Reimer are waiver exempt next year. This means, if we want one of them to play backup and one of them to get more playing time with the Marlies, we'd have to put one on waivers, meaning some other team can (and someone almost certainly will, especially with the Calder run Scrivens just had), pick Scrivens up on the waiver wire and we lose him for nothing.

    The other option is to carry 3 goalies, but that just isn't realistic at all. With 3 goalies, 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, you only have 2 spots for injury backups and short-term injury spots. That simply isn't good enough.

    There is no option where we take Theodore or some other vet for a year to let Scrivens and Reimer get more seasoning before taking the reins.

    The year will begin with Reimer/Scrivens, or one of the two will be traded in or after a deal for a veteran goalie. People need to realize this. There simply is NO reality in which a vet comes to Toronto and both Scrivens and Reimer remain here.

  8. Also, there's no way that St. Louis is trading Halak. It would be absolutely mind-blowingly crazy for anyone in the St. Louis organization to think Brian Elliott is the solution going forward after 1 total outlier year, following 4 years of terrible-to-mediocre goaltending.

    Absolutely no chance they trade Halak unless Elliott reproduces what he did last season with almost no decline. Either way, not happening before the end of the year.

    My money is on Elliott regressing HARD early in the season and Halak reclaiming the starting spot.

    Backes is a player any leaf fan would love to have, but i highly doubt St. Louis would even consider trading him after the season they had.

  9. Thanks for the clarification, Darryl I'm far from an expert on cap/waiver issues!

    Perhaps others will weigh in on this as well...

  10. To your point on Halak, I often say here, for fans, summertime is for dreaming, eh?

    But I agree that Elliot could be a one-year wonder. St. Louis is well aware that there are no guarantees going forward, just as Ottawa may encounter with Anderson. One season does not a career make...

  11. When I started commenting on the goaltending situation vis a vis Luongo, I was probably lumped in the fringe lunatic category by most. In brief, I said “soft deal or no deal”, Reimer/Scrivens fine by me, and what I called the Veteran Goaltender Myth (an elite veteran yes, but a middling veteran would be a regressive step). Now, it seems that this perspective is becoming more mainstream, with Leaf Management echoing this view and more fans agreeing that overpaying for Luongo would be a high risk move in more ways than one. Others, like Daryll, with a better understanding of waiver rules than I, are noting how problematical a good veteran like Theodore, brought in for one or two years, would be.

    Losing Ben Scrivens to a bloody waiver wire could well turn into a blunder of Tukka Raskesque proportions, or even worse, Bernie Parentesque proportions. It brings us back to this problem of “synchronicity” that I wrote about yesterday, that unimaginably complex problem of developing players in a way that allows roster spots to be open, so that the athlete can hit the ground running instead or running on a treadmill. Isn’t this problem of synchronicity exactly what Gillis is now facing with Luongo’s contract and Schneider’s stalled evolution? I fear that Luongo’s contract could further exacerbate this synchronicity problem with the Leafs by throwing all of our eggs in one aging basket. We have seen the advent of all sorts of management positions recently from capoligists to player development whatnots. Maybe it’s time to hire a psychic as well?

  12. I laughed at your concluding sentence, Bobby C. Thank you for that.

    I am likely the polar opposite of "the most interesting man" commercial guy. When it comes to modern-day hockey analysis, I may be as simple as they come. I can't do math, don't really understand the cap and advanced stats are obviously well above my grasp.

    I just know that I've followed the sport very closely for more than 50 years. I've seen all kinds of players, goalies, etc. I've watched Luongo closely. He's a talented guy who has melted down year after year in the playoffs, when his (very good) team needed him most.

    thus, for me, he is not the answer in Toronto, though I respect the view of those who would love to see him here.

    Could he get us into the playoffs? No doubt.

    But so could Reimer (with a better team in front of him), if he plays as he did in his first season here.

    Specifically with regard to your well-articulated and longstanding position on Luongo and why the Leafs should offer precious little for him, you know I respect your view.

    My only thing is, as I have stated here often as well, that I believe Gillis will hold out as long as possible to get good players in return, as opposed to simply taking on bad contracts to deal Luongo.

    Someone will blink first, whether it is Gillis, the Leafs (unlikely) or some other GM...

    Thanks Bobby, great stuff.

  13. I didnt buy a Reimer jersey because I had no faith =) Optimus Reim will rebound this year, you heard it first if you didnt hear it already!