Roberto Luongo is still in Vancouver awaiting further orders, but the impact of trading him is radiating across the league. He’s the Big Domino causing implications in both NHL conferences depending on where he lands. Some teams may need to re-arm quickly. Others can stand down. Time to play Six Degrees of Louie.
Vancouver: If the Canucks get to the seventh game of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals there is a potential of 76 games still to play for Vancouver. That’s a tall assignment for Cory Schneider, who’s only played 65 games in the NHL. So there’s a logic for keeping Luongo in Vancouver, even at his $5.5 M cap hit, if they’re planning on going all the way.
But with injuries to Ryan Kesler and David Booth, the Canucks likely need to translate Luongo’s value soon, while it’s still optimal. There are helpful parts currently in the Canucks’ farm system but no young core players outside of Schneider. So better a trade now than later. If Luongo is dispatched, GM Mike Gillis needs a goalie who can spell Schneider or, should disaster happens, deliver enough to get the Nucks to the promised land.
Should the Canucks dump Luongo’s contract, replenish their youth and find a FA goalie as backup, they would throw a scare into the Kings, Red Wings, Blackhawks and Sharks atop the West, hastening potential moves to match Vancouver’s firepower.
Toronto: New GM Dave Nonis has been dealt a tough assignment, compelled by new management to get the Leafs into the playoffs. The James Reimer/ Ben Scrivens goalie combination hardly inspires confidence behind Toronto’s defence corps. While winning the Cup was too much for him in Van City, it would not be a high bar for Luongo to carry Toronto to eighth place– and a parade down Yonge Street.
Brian Burke believed waiting for Gillis to blink would reduce the price in players. Nonis may not have that option for Luongo. If the price is too rich (Vancouver reportedly wants Jake Gardiner, Tyler Bozak and a high draft pick), Nonis will have to go find the next best alternative in the market. But FAs like Dwayne Roloson or Brent Johnson don't have Luongo’s pedigree.
If Toronto does get Luongo, it will pressure the rest of the Eastern Conference pretenders (Montreal, Buffalo, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg) to react in kind.
Florida: The new CBA makes the financial implications of taking on local hero Luongo easier for GM Dale Talon, who’s sitting on a trove of top prospects. He can acquire Luongo and let the Canucks deal with the unused portion of the lengthy contract after Luongo retires. Likewise, Luongo will help Talon get to the absurd $44-million salary cap floor.
Luongo’s acquisition would scramble the Southeast, as rivals struggled to stay ahead. Tallon would appear to have wiggle room to wait out Gillis.
But then... after the Panthers made the playoffs for the first time in a decade in 2012, there’s pressure on Tallon to repeat the feat. His rivals in the SE have gotten stronger since last spring, making a postseason repeat tougher. Yes, Tallon has a terrific goalie prospect in Jacob Markstrom but he’s a couple years away from carrying a team. Does Tallon want to gamble? “Do you feel lucky, punk? Huh?”
Chicago: The Blackhawks are another team in the wishin’ and hopin’ category as they try to guess if Corey Crawford is the real deal in goal. Luongo would make the Hawks a heavy favourite in the Central and a viable Cup contender overall. As a threat to Vancouver, they’re not likely to be top choice for Gillis. But if the Hawks offered a viable No. 3 or 4 D man and prospects they could get the nod.
Chicago winning Luongo would set off an arms race in Detroit and Nashville, not to mention a handful of other Western contenders.
Edmonton: The Oilers are eager to show they’re now ready to be taken seriously. But their goalie tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin sounds like same old/ same old. With a bushel of the game’s best prospects, the Oilers could replenish Vancouver’s youth brigade fast. And Luongo could get them to the playoffs in spite of the questionable defence corps.
With so many top young payers aimed at big contracts themselves, affording Luongo’s contract might be a trick. Still if Vancouver wouldn’t trade within the conference to Chicago, why would they deal within the Northwest Division to see the Oilers possibly triumph four or five times a year? Because both teams can get what they need. In this unknown word of the new CBA, that’s often reason enough.
Philadelphia: The deep-pocketed Flyers are always in on a big name. Luongo might give them what Ilya Bryzgalov could not in 2011-12. Always good at producing players, the Flyers have some nice defencemen and prospects to dangle. For Luongo there’s a legit shot at the Cup in Philly.
NHL sorry in Canada too
A follow-up to yesterday’s column about the NHL dropping rates for its Center Ice package in the U.S. to say thanks to fans after the lockout. Canadian cable and satellite carriers will be matching the price, the NHL tells the Daily Grind. That means a reduced rate of $49.99 for the truncated season, as opposed to the $180 charged for an 82-game schedule, representing a 40 per cent saving over last year.
Even as his Baltimore Ravens trailed their NFL playoff game late with Denver on Saturday, owner Steve Bisciotti was texting head coach John Harbaugh on the sidelines during the fourth quarter. “I’ve never texted you during a game,” Bisciotti wrote, “We are down 35-28. And I think it’s the best game I’ve ever seen us (play) in the playoffs since 2000. Win or lose I am so proud of the team and proud of you.”
After the Ravens scored a miracle TD with under a minute to play in the fourth quarter to tie the game and then won in OT, Harbaugh read the note to his team, says the cub’s website. “"That was just something I thought the team needed to hear,” Harbaugh later said at his press conference.
Denver owner Pat Bowlen, a Canadian, fired off his own message to Bronco fans. “"I feel terrible for our players, coaches and staff who put forth maximum effort throughout the year. They accomplished many great things while falling short of our ultimate goal. But most importantly, my heart aches for you.”
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