The Vancouver Canucks might have to keep star goaltender Roberto Luongo until the offseason after learning that top prospect Eddie Lack underwent hip surgery this week and will not be able to play for six months (via Team 1040 Radio in Vancouver).
Lack was the top candidate to back up No. 1 goaltender Cory Schneider if Luongo was traded, but now that Canucks general manager Mike Gillis doesn't have a reliable goalie to give Schneider a day off or replace him if he gets hurt, Luongo could spend the entire season in Vancouver.
There aren''t any quality goaltenders on the free-agent market either.
It would also be difficult to trade for a backup, since teams are less likely to give up goaltenders during a shortened season, when depth at this position is even more important than it is during a normal 82-game schedule.
With Lack unable to play for the rest of this season, trading Luongo makes very little sense. Trading Luongo and getting a backup as part of the return package would not help the Canucks, because if Schneider gets injured or fails to impress as a starter, Vancouver would be in trouble.
Luongo has played well thus far, even though his stats don't look amazing. He has a 0-0-2 record with a 2.21 GAA and .917 save percentage this season.
He hasn't allowed more than two goals in any of his starts and his teammates have failed to give him much offensive support. Vancouver has scored an average of 1.67 goals per game with Luongo in net.
Gillis is under no pressure to trade Luongo before the trade deadline, even though the salary cap goes down to $64.3 million for the 2013-14 season.
The Canucks have the entire summer to trade Luongo and there will likely be a few teams looking to upgrade their goaltending depth and talent during the offseason, especially the ones who miss out on top free agents such as Niklas Backstrom.
Luongo will have nine years left on his contract this summer, but as an elite goaltender, he should have some value to a number of teams.
While getting rid of Luongo's cap hit should be a priority for Gillis before next season, trading him needs to be more than a salary dump for Vancouver.
Even though he has a large contract that is not cap-friendly, Luongo is too talented to be moved for middle-round draft picks and/or middle-tier prospects. There's no reason for Gillis to move Luongo without acquiring at least a second-line forward in return.
Lack's injury doesn't mean that Luongo will definitely remain in Vancouver for the entire 2013 season, but it makes trading the veteran goaltender before the deadline a riskier move for Gillis because his team's goaltending talent/depth would be severely weakened.
For the Canucks to have the best chance to hoist the Stanley Cup in June, Luongo must remain on the roster until the summer.