Seeing Roberto Luongo as the center of controversy and the scapegoat for playoff failure for the Vancouver Canucks is like comfort food at this point in the season.
Alas, it appears the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be the last time the netminder wears the whale (barring expansion to Hartford).
Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported Thursday morning that Luongo asked the Canucks for a trade in his exit meeting, without the team even asking him to waive his no-trade clause. This comes after Luongo told the media, after Vancouver's 5-game defeat to the Los Angeles Kings, that he wouldn't stand in the way of a deal should the Canucks decide to move forward with Cory Schneider as their goalie.
Luongo holds the cards here, and can veto a trade to Edmonton control where he's traded.
According to reports, the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the destinations he'd approve.
Luongo, 33, has 10 more years at $5.33 million annually against the cap left on his contract. (Please note, however, that the last three years of that deal total $3.618 million in salary, which is a polite way of saying Luongo will retire in 2019 if not sooner.)
James Duthie of TSN reported that Luongo will provide a list of teams to GM Mike Gillis next week, and Dan Murphy of Sportsnet confirmed that both the Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning will be on the list
The Lightning immediately make the most sense, since their goaltending situation is pretty much barren.
Luongo's wife calls Florida home, and he obviously spent a good amount of time in the Sunshine State during his career. The Bolts have $16.5 million under the cap for next season, with Steven Stamkos (2016), Marty St. Louis (2015) and Victor Hedman (2017) locked up for the next few years. They would probably flip Vinny Lecavalier for Luongo in a heartbeat, but he has a no-trade clause and has flexed it in the past; an amnesty buyout under the new CBA wouldn't be out of the question, one imagines, for a $7.7 million cap hit through 2020.
PHT listed 10 reasons why the Lightning could end up with Lou, including the idea that Ryan Malone moves his $4.5 million cap hit through 2015 — and power forward game — over to Vancouver in a deal.
The Leafs are … wishful thinking? A possibility? Bound to overpay?
Toronto has several things going for it. There's Dave Nonis, who traded for Luongo as the general manager of the Canucks. The Maple Leafs have a significant need for a No. 1 goalie, which is required. They can handle the cash it's going to cost, the bulk of which is $40.3 million during the next six years.
But most importantly, they have Francois Allaire, Luongo's longtime goalie guru who works with him during the offseasons. Allaire is the Maple Leafs' goalie coach.
This should not be underplayed. The goalie coach is one of the critical factors for Luongo. When he was with Florida, in his final negotiation, one of Luongo's demands was that they hire Allaire.
Assuming he's still the GM, it's hard to imagine Mike Gillis shipping Luongo to the two general managers that preceded him in Vancouver — Brian Burke and Dave Nonis — and to a franchise whose resurrection with Luongo in net, combined with any sort of decline from the Canucks, would require Gillis to build a shelter on Whistler to avoid the Canadian media catcalls.
The Leafs aren't going to make a run at the Stanley Cup anytime soon. So why not stick with the youngsters and see if James Reimer or any of the Marlies' goaltenders — Ben Scrivens, Mark Owuya and Jussi Rynnas — are the real deal? All three Marlies goalies played well this season. Scrivens was lights out.
You sign Luongo, you don't give any of the young goalies in your system a real chance to prove themselves over the long run — unless you use Luongo as an expensive backup, which would be a complete waste of time and money. It says here that Leafs GM Brian Burke would be correct not to give up any assets for Luongo.
Frankly, we find the logic that trading for Luongo is bad because it'll hamper the development of Ben Scrivens infallible …
JP Nikota of Leafs Nation had a solid look at the age concerns about both Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas, who may also be available from the Bruins. There are also cap concerns, as Burke has constructed a roster with just over $7 million in cap space remaining; can the Leafs interest you in a slightly used Mike Komisarek, Mr. Gillis?
So at what cost would Luongo be available? James Mirtle scanned the horizon and thinks we won't see a blockbuster:
Montreal moved Jaroslav Halak without getting a great deal in return and the likes of Mike Smith and Brian Elliott, two of the better goalies this season, signed on cheap free agent deals last summer. There is also the possibility Thomas, Miikka Kiprusoff and others are also available, which crowds the market.
Luongo is movable, but expectations have to be kept realistic. If Vancouver can land a late first round pick or a middling prospect, that's a fair deal given the term left on his contract and the low number of suitors. They may even have to take some salary back in the trade.
So the Leafs, in theory, wouldn't have to ship Jake Gardiner or the No. 5 overall pick for Luongo. The Lightning's conversations don't include Hedman, nor would the Devils' conversations include Adam Larsson.
It's among hockey's great ironies that Luongo was given that elephantine contract for being one of the NHL's most elite goaltenders, and it's that contract that will prevent the Canucks from receiving a return that's equivalent to his status.
Look, there's only one Luongo trade we want to see, as was discussed on Marek Vs. Wyshynski yesterday:
• Roberto Luongo to the Chicago Blackhawks.
• Duncan Keith to the Vancouver Canucks.
• The Canucks have an elite backliner that can log mondo minutes. The Blackhawks have their franchise goalie for the next few seasons, and immediately change their goal song to "Song 2" by Blur or "Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey" (you know, for Luongo).
• HBO cancels "24/7" in favor of a documentary that focuses on the first time both players enter their new respective locker rooms …
But seriously: Where does Luongo end up; and if your team needs a goalie, what would you offer for him? What gets it done?