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?