The Vancouver Canucks were like many NHL franchises yesterday, able to claim a victory thanks to the asset-adding entry draft.
But the Canucks could look like bigger winners come Canada Day, when goaltender Roberto Luongo formally agrees to a contract extension. The sides appear to be close, if not finished, on a deal that will keep the superstar goalie in Vancouver, and ramp up the pressure on the Sedin twins to join him.
The Canucks and Luongo are zeroing in on an agreement that would pay the goaltender around $7-million (all currencies U.S.) per year beginning in the 2010-11 season. One source said the deal was for four years and could be worth as much as $7.5-million per season. Another said it would be a six-year deal at $6.8-million per season.
"It's a go," said one source with knowledge of the proceedings.
Luongo, 30, is under contract for the 2009-10 regular season and counts as $6.75-million against the league's salary cap, which was set yesterday at $56.8-million, effectively flat from last season.
The sides are allowed to talk before July 1, the beginning of the NHL's free agency period, but are not allowed to register the new contract until then. Luongo is reportedly building a home in the Nicola Valley, in B.C.'s southern interior, and appears set on giving the Canucks some cap relief to stay in the fold. One report yesterday said Luongo was seeking $8-million per year, though his agent has suggested that he is not seeking a jackpot.
Cap cost is the major sticking point with the Sedin twins, who can become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday, though the sides were set to talk again last night, after the draft's first round.
Much of the Canucks future will be set over the next several days.
Luongo's new contract affects the long-term, but even if the deal collapses, there is plenty of time to talk. Negotiations with the Sedins, on the other hand, bring instant consequences.
The twins, point-per-game players who turn 29 in September, proposed 12-year contracts worth $63-million last week.
But more than $20-million was due after their 34th birthdays, which wasn't palatable to the team. Agent J.P. Barry has said that his clients are willing to work with the Canucks and lessen the cap hit, and are open to a number of terms lengths.
The Canucks were preparing a counteroffer. Sources suggested it could be of the decade-long variety, though the compensation was said to be hugely frontloaded in the first six years.
The Canucks are a high-revenue team with ample cap space, yet are holding out for the best deal with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, two thirds of their top forward line. Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis is intent on replacing them on the free-agent market should the sides not come to terms.
Last night, the Canucks selected Jordan Schroeder from the University of Minnesota 22nd overall at the Bell Centre, a pick announced by Luongo, the team's captain and a Montreal native.
The first round of the draft was held last night. Rounds two through seven are set for today. Gillis views the 2009 crop of prospects as deep, and refused to part with selections at the trade deadline, when the Canucks stood still, because he wants to restock the organization with young talent.