Just so we're all caught up …
In the last 48 hours, Roberto Luongo wasn't traded at the NHL Draft; the Chicago Blackhawks emerged as a suitor, leading to Luongo's Twitter feed making a "Chelsea Dagger" joke; and Damien Cox lobbied for a Toronto Maple Leafs' offer sheet to Cory Schneider that would hasten a Luongo trade, in a column that didn't really seem to comprehend the CBA rules on RFAs nor how the Leafs would surrender a package of four first-round picks for a backup goalie.
On Monday morning, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch added another twist to the Luongo Derby: That he only has eyes for his former team, the Florida Panthers, at the moment. From Portzline:
Told by very good source Canucks G Roberto Luongo has - to this point -- declined to waive no-trade clause to go to Blackhawks or Leafs. Only place Luongo is willing to be traded, as of today, is back to the Florida Panthers. Luongo using the power of his no-trade to "steer" a trade to Panthers as much as possible at this point in off-season.
Whether or not theirs is the same source, The Fourth Period reported on Sunday that "Luongo is now only willing to waive his no-movement clause to Florida, where he spends his off-seasons."
One assumes these leaks are coming from Camp Luongo, given that the Canucks likely haven't asked him to waive for anyone until their price is met.
Is Florida the only option for Canucks GM Mike Gillis?
In June 2000, Luongo was sent to the Panthers in the Oleg Kvasha trade, and remained there for five seasons before escaping the tyranny of Mike Keenan for Vancouver. He's 33 years old, and has a $5,333,333 cap hit annually through 2022 (or more accurately 2019, when his salary is cut in half at age 40 and he'll probably retire).
But here's the thing: As much as Luongo wants Florida, does Florida want Luongo?
Kris Eberwein of the Yahoo! CN doesn't believe they need him:
Panthers fans all remember the 27 year-old version of a hot shot goaltender who was in his prime in South Florida. It's nice to take a stroll down memory lane but he's not the same net minder anymore.
In the 2011-12 season Luongo had a .919 save percentage. Compare that with the Panthers' current goaltender Jose Theodore and his .917 save percentage and you're looking at comparable goalies. Theo is a couple years older than Luongo but he only has one more year left on his contract for a modest cap hit of $1.5 million.
They've been grooming Jacob Markstrom as the eventual starter; and while another season in the AHL is a little disconcerting, the Panthers claim it's just to see him handle a full campaign. That, and GM Dale Tallon has said he's not parting with top prospects for Luongo.
Which is to say they aren't willing to meet a price for Luongo that's currently too rich for Brian Burke's blood. From James Mirtle at the Globe & Mail, Burke spoke about the negotiations:
"From my perspective, the prices that are being asked have to be reasonable," Burke said. "If you can get a goaltender who makes you better, and it costs you 15 first-round picks, would you do it? No.
"So somewhere between 15 first-round picks and something that makes sense, we're not there yet. I'm not going to overpay to upgrade at that position. I'm not happy with what's being asked. From my perspective, rather than strip your organization to fill one positional need, we'll go with what we have."
Yeah, that does seem steep.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis, meanwhile, said he knows the price tag is high and probably will remain so. From the Vancouver Sun:
"It hasn't been close for me; I'm the problem," Gillis said when asked about trading Luongo. "This is a significant consideration for our organization. It's not going to be done lightly, not going to be done in a hurry and it's certainly not going to be done because of the pressure of selecting kids [at the draft] who in all likelihood aren't even going to be involved in this deal. I don't feel any pressure whatsoever to have done something this weekend.
"When I do the calculation, there are 15 legitimate No. 1 goalies in the world and [Luongo] is one of them. Contrary to what people may think or describe, there's a tremendous amount of interest in players who are high-end players in this league. And finding a fit is occasionally more challenging, but there's definitely fits to be found."
(Does he count Cory Schneider among the 15? Oh, if only we could climb into the DeLorean for that follow-up query.)
Gillis will eventually come back down to terra firma with his expectations because there's no market for Luongo.
The Panthers can take him or leave him. The Lightning opted for Lindback. The Maple Leafs covet him, but Brian Burke wants the UFA rights to Jeff Finger and a case of Burkie Dogs going back the other way. The Blackhawks are the perfect landing spot for Luongo, in my opinion — both in addressing a need and from a selfish, what's-best-for-the-NHL's-drama narrative standpoint. But one imagines they'd have to free up some dough; and then there's the fact that Chicago is probably second to only Boston on Luongo's "most masochistic trade destinations" list.
Along with the fact that despite all the speculation and chatter about which teams are in on Luongo, he's the one holding the trigger — not Gillis.