NHL Trade News: 5 Most Likely Teams to Land Unsettled Goalie Roberto Luongo

Carol Schram@pool88Featured ColumnistJuly 18, 2012

NHL Trade News: 5 Most Likely Teams to Land Unsettled Goalie Roberto Luongo

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    Back in May, I wrote this story, outlining the five teams I thought were most likely to have Roberto Luongo in their lineup when next season begins.

    Now we're into July and Luongo still hasn't been moved. The biggest news of the last few weeks has been Luongo's 634th-place finish at the World Series of Poker (per Yahoo! sports) and Canucks general manager Mike Gillis' fishing trip to Panama (from Twitter).

    My Bleacher Report colleague Riley Kufta mused this week on the prospect of Luongo landing with the Islanders, but I don't see it.

    First off, the Isles treated Luongo pretty shabbily when they shipped him off to Florida to make room for Rick DiPietro. I'm not sure that a player with a no-trade clause would sign up for another round with that organization.

    Secondly, the Islanders already possess one cumbersome goaltending contract—DiPietro's. I don't think they'd take on another.

    Thirdly, the Islanders are a team in flux. Unable to reach a deal on a new arena in Nassau County to date, there's a strong possibility the Islanders will end up relocating—possibly to Brooklyn, maybe to Quebec City. Montreal native Luongo might not be as averse to Quebec as some, but it's unlikely he'd sign on to a team whose future is so uncertain.

    I'll cross the Isles off my list. Let's look at the updated odds that Luongo might land with one of the teams from my original list.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Odds: 10 percent

    At this point, the Lightning are very unlikely contenders for Luongo's services.

    Early on in the proceedings, Steve Yzerman stated that Tampa Bay was more interested in shoring up its goaltending with a more economical strategy, through the draft or free agency (via The Hockey Writers).

    He made good on his word by drafting Russian sensation Andrei Vasilevski in the first round of the 2012 entry draft. In mid-June, Yzerman also acquired 24-year-old Anders Lindback, who should help carry the lead next season, from Nashville.

    With those moves and Tampa Bay's collection of expensive forwards on its current roster, there's no reason to think that Yzerman wasn't telling the truth when he outlined his goaltending philosophy.

    Luongo to the Lightning seems almost impossible at this juncture.

Florida Panthers

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    Odds: 35 percent

    Florida seems like the most likely destination for Luongo when the dust settles.

    He's made no secret of the fact that he'd like to go back. His wife is from the area and it's where they live during the offseason.

    The Canucks also have a productive trading history with the Panthers over the years. Hopefully, there are no hard feelings over the Jason Garrison free-agent signing.

    The Panthers have improved their bargaining position by bringing back last year's netminding duo of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen. They also have prospect Jacob Markstrom waiting in the wings.

    Still, the Panthers took a big step forward last year with their first ever Southeast Division title. An elite goaltender of Luongo's caliber could provide stability and backstop the team to even more wins.

    Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun reported on draft weekend that Dale Tallon and Mike Gillis have been unable to agree on a price for Luongo. Expect movement on both sides as the regular season draws near.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Odds: 10 percent

    The idea of a Luongo trade to Chicago seemed pretty ludicrous when I first floated the idea back in May.

    These days, the possibility has gained some traction. The reliable Jason Botchford of The Province reported on July 14 that there have been talks between the two sides:

    But Florida hasn’t been the most interested team recently involved in trade talks with the Canucks. It’s been the Chicago Blackhawks, who have been mulling over the idea and have had conversations with Vancouver.

    They even reportedly dangled one of Vancouver’s arch-enemies, Dave Bolland, to the crew over at Rogers Arena. Now, that would take some getting used to, both for fans and players.

    Bolland in the same locker-room as the Sedins? You could probably put their first handshake on PPV. Luongo with Patrick Kane? File it under ‘we’d have to see it to believe it’.

    A trade like this would make an incredible splash, but I think the risk is too high. It would be tough to win over the fanbases—on both sides. Plus, emotions already run so hot between these two teams. Making the rivalry any more heated would be like putting a match to gasoline.

    Surely there's an easier option for Mike Gillis?

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Odds: 25 percent

    If not Florida, the Leafs are probably the most likely destination for Luongo.

    Toronto could use a top-flight goaltender, and it could also use a new marquee player to give its fanbase some hope after eight years out of the playoffs.

    Brian Burke is not a fan of long-term, front-loaded contracts, but his right-hand man Dave Nonis brought Luongo to Vancouver back in 2006, so he's a known and respected entity.

    The biggest obstacle in doing this deal is the competitive bad blood between Mike Gillis and Brian Burke. Harrison Mooney of Yahoo! Sports draws a good picture of the situation here, dating back to draft weekend.

    The Toronto Sun reported on Tuesday that the Leafs are making a pitch for the Kings' Jonathan Bernier, but admits that Burke has said in the past that he wanted a proven backstopper. Either Burke has changed his mind or this Bernier diversion might be a bargaining tactic to try to create some urgency with Gillis.

    A deal could still happen between the Canucks and the Leafs. It's most likely a matter of waiting for one side to blink.

Vancouver Canucks

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    Odds: 20 percent

    It wouldn't be ideal to see Luongo back in Vancouver at the start of next season, but it's certainly possible.

    I wrote at length last week about the ramifications if Luongo isn't traded by September. If Gillis can't get some decent value for Luongo, the Canucks could do worse than to bring him back.

    One of Luongo's current suitors might get just a little more desperate. Or a serious goaltending deficiency could develop on another squad, perhaps due to injury.

    With the CBA negotiations heating up, no one really knows when we'll see NHL hockey back on the ice. In that respect, Mike Gillis has the luxury of waiting to see how things ultimately play out.

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