Throughout the summer, I've been covering the trade talks surrounding Roberto Luongo and how they may play out.
Based on the developments thus far, it appears that there has been interest in Luongo from a handful of teams. With the issue unresolved, we can assume that the offers that have been made (if any) have not shown a return to Mike Gillis' liking.
The recent words of Gillis are quite clear, stating:
"We're one of the wealthiest teams in the league, so we don't have fire sales. Our ownership has been completely supportive in everything we've done. They're going to be completely supportive in this matter."
“We've had solid proposals. They're solid, but they're not what we're trying to accomplish. We're going to go as far as we can to try to get what we can accomplish out of this.”
I admire Gillis' determination, but I do not agree with his evaluation. Where he sees a fire sale as negative, I see it as strategy.
So let's take a look at the facts.
1. Luongo has a problematic contract, which brings a $5.33 million cap hit for the next 10 years. He's currently 33 years old, nearing the end of his golden years. With each day Roberto gets older, that contract becomes more toxic and difficult to move.
2. The Florida Panthers are one of the few teams who've shown interest in Luongo, and he has voiced his desire to return there, stating, "A trade to the Panthers makes sense for myself, for my career and my family."
Who would win a Luongo/Theodore trade?
3. Cory Schneider, while talented, is fairly unproven. The leadership and support of an experienced goaltender behind him would be ideal (a criteria which both Luongo and Jose Theodore fit).
4. Eddie Lack has been turning heads in the AHL and will likely be NHL-ready within the next few years. Jose Theodore's contract expires at the end of the 2012-13 season.
5. The NHL and NHLPA are at the bargaining table as we speak. Simply put, the NHL wants players to take an immediate pay cut. The players, although willing to gradually take a smaller piece of the pie, do not want rollbacks on the contracts they've already agreed upon. It's unclear how the CBA negotiations will play out, but it is very possible that the salary cap will go down. If that happens, the Canucks do not want to be the ones holding Luongo's contract.
So wouldn't a Luongo-for-Theodore trade make sense?
Is Luongo worth more than that? Yes. Should that be a deal breaker? No.
The fact is, this trade would be a win-win-win. Florida acquires an elite goaltender. Roberto Luongo gets to return to his family and play where he wants, in a market that is more suitable for him; and the Canucks rid themselves of problematic contract while paving the way for the future of Cory Schneider, backed with an experienced and talented, yet affordable, Jose Theodore.
The only person who may be left standing in this game of musical chairs is Jacob Markstrom. Although one might ask if he's yet proven himself worthy of a seat.