Roberto Luongo to the Maple Leafs: Denials, details and his probable destination

Greg Wyshynski
October 19, 2012

The Vancouver Canucks trading their backup goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers never really made sense, outside of Luongo's possession of a no-movement clause and willingness to go to there.

Why would the Panthers want a goaltender when they've been grooming Jacob Markstrom for several seasons, and are fairly happy with their veteran tandem anyway? Why would they ante up anything close to what the Canucks want for Luongo, who won't simply be a salary dump? Why would the Panthers want that salary on their cap? (Oh, that's right: Because when he retires, it'll be the Canucks' salary again.)

The Toronto Maple Leafs, on the other hand, could use Roberto Luongo. (All due respect to James Reimer, a nice young goalie transformed into Hockey Jesus in some desperate Toronton media circles.)

Roberto Luongo would make them a playoff team. Yes, seriously, that's the impact: Putting him between the pipes means the Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference top eight. At the very least, their team GAA won't be 29th overall next season.

So how do we make this happen?

From Damien Cox of the Toronto Star:

Yes, the Leafs remain very much interested in securing the services of Luongo, and the talks are very much alive. It's believed Leaf GM Brian Burke and his Vancouver counterpart Mike Gillis spoke as recently as two weeks ago, at which time the Canucks demands were reduced from the bounty they requested at the draft, but not enough for the Leafs to agree to anything.

At the draft, reports indicated Vancouver asked for centre Tyler Bozak, defenceman Jake Gardiner, a first-round pick and winger Matt Frattin in exchange for the 33-year-old Luongo. The Leafs had no interest in paying that kind of price, largely because there is no significant market for the services of the veteran goaltender.

Gardiner might be a deal-killer, as close to untouchable as a player on this sickly roster can come.

Chemmy from Pension Plan Puppets offers an alternative:

Ditto to young talent. Jake Gardiner should hopefully contribute value to the Leafs for a lot longer than three or four years. Toronto doesn't have enough talent to give up young potential for a few years of an old goaltender.

My Deal: I'd offer Vancouver Tyler Bozak, Cody Franson and our 2nd round pick in 2013. There's some value there for Vancouver. It's not a king's ransom but I don't think the Leafs should be moving important pieces to bring in a 33 year old. If that's not enough I'm more than happy to not have Luongo.

Bump that up to a first-round pick, and there might be a deal here. Swap out one of the two (or both) for Joe Colborne, and there's probably a deal there.

The Luongo-to-the-Leafs talk was kicked up again by a report by John Shannon of Sportsnet that the two sides had an agreement in principle to make a deal after the lockout ends. The Canucks issued a "non-denial denial" on the trade, which is expected when GM Mike Gillis is still trying to add irons to the fire. But he doubled down by saying the Leafs rumor was "untrue" on Friday.

The Leafs have some assets the Canucks might desire, and ones with which they'd be willing to part. The Canucks need to remedy the Luongo situation in order to pass the torch to Cory Schneider.

It all comes down to Luongo's desire to play for the Leafs, which comes down to a probability for championship success (low) and his comfort in the market.

Florida would have finally been a respite from the annual piling-on that Luongo faces when he and/or the Canucks fall short of a championship. Toronto offers a different kind of pressure — that of a franchise savior — but it also offers Luongo a different set of expectations than the ones he currently faces in Vancouver.

It's one pressure cooker to another, but Luongo would undoubtedly get a smoother ride in Toronto because the bar is significantly lower: "Carry us to the Cup" vs. "Get us the Eight Seed."