Maple Leafs Trade Scenarios: 5 Ways Toronto Could Pry Roberto Luongo Loose
Toronto has been in talks to acquire the perennial Vezina Trophy candidate since the offseason began, but the Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks remain at an impasse.
The Globe and Mail reports that while Vancouver will not budge on their trade price, Brian Burke is unwilling to meet the exorbitant demands.
“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."
Exaggeration aside, Burke is competing with the Florida Panthers for Luongo's services, and the highest bidder will win. The Leafs will have to dig into their resources in order to land this offseason's best netminder.
Here are five ways Burke could win the Luongo sweepstakes for Toronto.
Sacrifice the Present
In order to get their goalie of the future, the Leafs could choose to deal away their pro-caliber talent.
Though the Canucks are one of the best teams in the NHL, their offense let them down in the postseason. As long as they're shipping Luongo out of town, they would benefit from bolstering the offensive firepower behind the Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
Of the Leafs' offensive threats, only Phil Kessel should be considered untouchable. Most valuable to Vancouver after him would be Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak.
In 66 games, Lupul recorded just over a point per game with 25 goals and 42 assists. Though he has just one year remaining on his contract, that might be preferable for a Vancouver team looking to remove Luongo's oppressive contract from its books.
Bozak also has a year left on his contract. The Canucks possibly being interested in paying just $1.5 million for a guy who scored 47 points last year and has not yet reached his full potential is something.
It would certainly limit the Toronto offense to trade both Lupul and Bozak. For a team that's still multiple years away from contending, Burke might deem this a worthwhile sacrifice in order to hold onto some of his draft picks.
Raid the Farm System
Something to keep in mind is that Luongo has a no-trade clause and could veto a move to Toronto. To appease their new goaltender, the Leafs could decide to build their deal around prospects rather than proven players.
There are a few players in development for Toronto that the Canucks might like. Nazem Kadri is the most pro-ready of the prospects. The center is just 21, but he has already recorded 19 points in 50 NHL games.
Further down in the Leafs' farm system, freshly-drafted defenseman Morgan Rielly is making an impression in scrimmages, according to the Toronto Sun. Guys like Jesse Blacker also have potential, and Burke could also trade the rights to 2010 first-round pick Tyler Biggs, who's currently playing for the Miami University (Ohio).
Unfortunately for Burke, none of these prospects are premium trade chips. If Vancouver really wanted Rielly, it would have traded Luongo sooner and picked up the fifth pick before the 2012 draft. In order to make this work, Toronto would have to package three, or even four, prospects before throwing a couple of draft picks on top of that.
Give Up the Draft Picks
Ultimately, the Canucks are not likely to bend too much on their price. Burke might be forced to cave and give up a king's ransom of draft picks.
Vancouver is clearly regarding Luongo as an elite goaltender while ignoring that he's currently an overqualified, disgruntled backup behind Cory Schneider. While it won't be the 15 first rounder Burke joked about, it still won't be pretty.
That means Toronto would be sacrificing three, maybe even four, years worth of first-round picks in order to get Luongo—a tall order for a team deep in the throes of a rebuilding effort. Let's not even get into whether Vancouver would want anything more on top of the picks.
From what Burke has intimated, the Leafs do have the resources necessary to make this deal work. The holdup as far as the draft picks are concerned is that even a goalie of Luongo's caliber might not be worth this price.
The alternative to mortgaging the present or the future is to build a sensible and balanced trade offer—one that gives Vancouver fair value without sapping Toronto of all its resources.
Lupul would be a reasonably place to start putting together a package. He would fill the salary cap hole left by the departing Luongo, and he would provide a scoring threat to the Canucks offense not offered by anyone but the Sedin twins.
After that, Burke could throw in a prospect like Kadri and a couple of first-rounders, making the trade without breaking the bank in any area of the team's development.
Unfortunately, this scenario most resembles the current one—a holding pattern in which Vancouver holds all the cards. A deal that limits both the short- and long-term damage is ideal, but so long as Florida is around to bid for Luongo, this prudence may not be possible.
An Unconventional 3-Team Deal
If Florida will not concede the Luongo sweepstakes, perhaps, they could be bought out of it. A radical idea, yes, but it could be the one that pushes Toronto over the top.
Let's work off a package of Lupul, Kadri and two first-round picks to Vancouver. Then, the Leafs also send Bozak, Blacker, and young goalie Ben Scrivens to Florida. In return, the Panthers send a third first-round pick to the Canucks along with Jose Theodore, who The Province reports is desirable as a veteran backup to Schneider.
In this way, the Maple Leafs could get Luongo and do it without giving up three first-round picks.
However, this deal seems a lot more imposing when you look at the total package Toronto would be giving up: Lupul, Bozak, Kadri, Blacker, Scrivens and two first-rounders for Luongo.
The reward is great, but Burke is between a rock and a hard place: Give up your young and talented players or give up your potential to acquire more. He can either give Vancouver the package it desires, or he can move forward with a question mark in goal for the umpteenth year; there's no third option.
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