Vancouver Canucks: 7 Reasons Roberto Luongo Is in Fact Tradeable
Just about as soon as the speculation that Roberto Luongo was on his way out of Vancouver began, so did the arguments that he, and his contract, are untradeable.
Once the Stanley Cup finals are complete and the Los Angeles Kings earn their crown (presumably), the Luongo rumors will heat up again.
And once we get around to the entry draft and free-agency, we'll find out whether or not there are any takers for the aging netminder.
In my opinion, however, Roberto Luongo does still have trade value, and the Canucks will not have a hard time finding takers. Lets take a look at why.
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Believe it or not, the demand for Roberto Luongo is there. Going into this summer, the available No. 1 worthy goaltenders are as follows: Roberto Luongo, Jonathan Bernier, Josh Harding, and possibly Tim Thomas (although the recent news that he might take next season off seriously hampers that.
In addition, there are some goalies who may or may not be worthy of a No. 1 position, such as Tomas Vokoun, Scott Clemmensen and Anders Lindback. Certain teams might make a run for these players, but to expect that they'll perform as No. 1s would be taking a gamble.
But, for the sake of making a point, lets assume that these goalies are worthy of being starting goaltenders. So that leaves seven starting goaltenders on the market.
The teams that are in need for a starting goalies are as follows: Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils (if Brodeur retires), Florida Panthers (possibly) and Colorado Avalanche (possibly).
So, there's eight teams that will likely be going after these seven goalies. The demand is there.
It's simple: if the demand exceeds the supply, the sellers have the bargaining power.
Of course, these numbers could change as we enter the offseason, but given the risk attached to Tim Thomas, it's fair to assume there will be more buyers than sellers.
It Would Not Be a One-Sided Trade
The main argument for why Luongo can't be moved is because of his contract. And while his contract is difficult, he's not the only one.
Just about every team in the league has one or two players whose contracts are are undesirable, whether the amount or duration.
For example, let's take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning; the two teams, in my opinion, who have the highest chances of landing Lou.
On Toronto, Mike Komisarek's $4.5 million for the next two seasons and Tim Connolly's $4.75 million are both contract's the fans would love to see go. Sure, they aren't as large or for as long as Luongo's, but that's not all you have to look at. When you compare their annual salaries to what they actually contribute to the team, Luongo doesn't look so bad.
Luongo is payed like an elite player, and for the most part, he performs as one; which is much more than you could say about Komisarek or Connolly.
In Tampa Bay, there's Vincent Lecavalier. The Lightning are in dyer need of an elite goaltender, but to make that happen, they will likely have to find a willing team to take Lecavalier's $7.73 million cap hit for the next eight years.
If Luongo does get traded, the Canucks know they won't be getting a young superstar in return, and they know they won't be getting nothing in return. Taking a bad contract is unavoidable.
Age Is Just a Number
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Having Luongo on the payroll until he's 43 years old is not a good thing. But that doesn't mean its written in stone that he won't be able to perform near the end of his contract.
The NHL has had it's fair share of ageless players. The one freshest in our minds is Martin Brodeur, who's playing in the Stanley Cup finals at 40 years of age. Of course, I'm not comparing Luongo to Brodeur, but who's to say Luongo won't maintain his value near the end of his career the way Ray Whitney, Teemu Selanne, Martin St. Louis and so many more have?
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On the first slide of this article, I listed seven potential start-worthy goalies who could be hitting the market this summer.
Out of those goalies, the only one who brings more valuable experience is Tim Thomas, but as mentioned, his uncertainty going in to next season is too risky.
So that leaves Luongo; a goalie who's been to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, won the gold metal at the Olympics, and has played 12 seasons in the NHL and never posted a single save percentage below .913 (excluding his rookie campaign with the New York Islanders).
He may not be as young as some of the other candidates, but he's definitely more proven.
Inconsistencies Could Be Misleading
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In the previous slide, I mentioned that Roberto Luongo has been a consistent player from year to year. In fact, over his career, his save percentage is .919. In a single season, the most he's strayed from that is .012, which was in 2003/04 when he posted a .931 save percentage with the Florida Panthers (again, excluding his rookie season with the Islanders).
But that is not to say he doesn't have his inconsistencies. Time and time again, Luongo has let in far too many goals in a critical playoff game which resulted in an eventual Canuck loss.
But, those inconsistencies don't extend past a Canuck jersey. And arguably, those inconsistencies are a direct result of a tough Vancouver fan base.
So who's to say Luongo isn't able to excel in a new city and leave is poor play in the rear-view?
Brian Elliott couldn't perform on the Ottawa Senators or Colorado Avalanche, but he was top in the league in St. Louis. Bryzgalov has struggled in Philadelphia, but was a star in Phoenix. Mike Smith's poor play in Tampa Bay earned him a trip to the minors, but on the Coyotes he could do no wrong. This list goes on.
The point is, the city does make a difference. Just because he struggles here and there in Vancouver, does not mean he will somewhere else.
So, it's time to address the elephant in the room; the fact that Luongo's contract presents a $5.33 million cap hit for the next ten years.
I'm not going to try to sit here and tell you that isn't a lot of money, because it is. But there are higher paid goaltenders that are arguably less deserving (see Ilya Bryzgalov).
What really deters potential suitors for Lou, is that this cap hit will continue until he's 43 years old. But at that point, what will the salary cap look like?
This past season, Luongo's cap hit took up 8.3% of the $64.3 million total cap; a considerable amount for one man on a team with 27 players on the payroll.
But lets backtrack six seasons, to the first year after the NHL lockout, when the salary cap was first integrated into the league. At that time, the salary cap was $39.0 million. As you can see, it's significantly increased since.
In fact, if it continues along this trend, by 2022 (the final year of Luongo's contract), the cap ceiling will be $106.4667 million. That would mean that Luongo's $5.33 million cap hit would then only be 5.01% of the total cap.
To put that in perspective, that's the equivalent of a player who earned $3.22 million last season.
Suddenly, Luongo's cap hit until 2022 doesn't seem so unrealistic.
So, let's assume there is an NHL general manager who agrees with what I've stated in this article *cough - Brian Burke.
If a GM does trade for Luongo, with the belief that all will be fine, and it doesn't work out..he could have an out clause.
For those who don't know, the NHL collective bargaining agreement expires on Sep. 15, 2012. For most fans, this is a terrifying fact which means another lockout could be looming. But for some, it simply means the NHL will have a slightly different look next season, as the new CBA (assuming one will be reached), will present some new rules in the league.
One of these potential changes, is adding an amnesty clause to the NHL. For those that aren't familiar with the concept, it basically means that each team can rip up one contract they please, sending whichever player to free agency. Each team would still be bound under the contract, and must still pay the player his salary, but that salary would no longer count against the cap. This would either be a one-time thing, or permitted one time ever x amount of years.
Now, the general managers are the ones who would vote this clause in, and are also the ones who would make the trade for Luongo. This means that if GMs truly believe that an amnesty clause is coming, picking up Luongo becomes much less risky.
So let's go back to the Toronto example. Imagine Brian Burke did make a run for Roberto Luongo, with the belief that he will get past his playoff struggles. If a few years down the road, it's clear that he was wrong and Luongo continues to choke in the postseason, he could use the amnesty clause to get rid of Luongo's cap hit.
Of course, this is contingent on the fact that the amnesty clause does become a reality. But again, no one has more insight into that possibility than the general managers.