Don't listen to Yzerman, Lu. He's just playing hard to get.
Shortly after the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated from the playoffs, reports surfaced that Roberto Luongo had requested a trade in his exit interview. (Those reports were confirmed Wednesday by Canucks coach Alain Vigneault in an interview with TVA Sports. "This is what he wants now," Vigneault said.)
According to further reports, Luongo even provided a list of teams he was willing to join, one of which was, reportedly, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A Luongo-to-Tampa trade would make a lot of sense for everyone. The Canucks have an elite goalie to deal, Luongo has family in Florida, and after watching Dwayne Roloson spend the season turning to dust before their very eyes like he'd come down with a bad case of Mummy's Curse, the Lightning clearly need a new guy back there.
But, Wednesday morning, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman appeared on 620 WDAE "The Sports Animal" and indicated that, while addressing the goaltending situation was very much an offseason priority for his club, acquiring a netminder via trade -- say, a Luongo type, maybe, whatever, just spitballin' -- was not. Yzerman:
I think everybody's trying to find somebody that's an elite guy. I would say there's probably five or six elite goaltenders in the league and then there's a group of good goaltenders, and then there's a group of teams that are really searching for that guy to lock up and not worry about for the present and the future.
My philosophy is I'm trying to find that Hall of Fame goaltender, and good luck trying to do that -- it takes time. We'll find that guy through the draft or unrestricted free agency. That guy isn't there at this time.
And then, Yzerman hung up the phone, hopped over to Line 1, and said, "Your move, Gillis."
Come on. No kidding Yzerman would prefer to acquire a top-notch goaltender through the draft or free agency. I too prefer paying nothing for things. Like most retired gentlemen living in Florida, Yzerman is cheap.
But if Yzerman can acquire Luongo (or Cory Schneider, or some such other excellent goalie) for a price that he can stomach, that remains an option. And in order to ensure that the price stays down, he needs to downplay his need.
This is Negotiating 101. Is it any surprise that Canucks' GM Mike Gillis went on the radio earlier this week and said that there was "a distinct possibility" he just might keep Luongo and Schneider? Like Yzerman or any GM, it only eats at his leverage if he lets on just how important it is to make a trade. You simply can't broker a deal in this league from a position of need without getting ripped off.
Heck, the fact that we know Toronto and Tampa Bay are on Luongo's list is likely a negotiating ploy. Here are two cities desperate for goaltending, the position that cost them a trip to the playoffs this season, and surprise -- rumor has it an all-world goalie wants to join the club? That puts a lot of pressure on Brian Burke and Yzerman to act.
What an unfortunate leak. I'm sure Gillis was just livid.
Today, Yzerman relieved a little bit of that pressure. That's all. Do not take him at his word. A deal may not happen, but when a GM says it won't, that's usually a good time to start assuming it might.
Regardless of what Yzerman says, I'm sure he and Gillis will have multiple discussions throughout the summer. Heck, they're having discussions right now. They're just using radio stations as a go-between.