Lockout Doesn't End Luongo Speculation
No NHL player can be traded during the lockout. But that doesn't mean nobody is talking trade, or that trade rumours can't gain life while the players are locked out.
That seems to be the case with the Leafs and their pursuit of Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, with multiple reports this week indicating that a deal was either close or completed in principle.
Well, not true. At least not yet.
Yes, the Leafs remain very much interested in securing the services of Luongo, and the talks are very much alive. It's believed Leaf GM Brian Burke and his Vancouver counterpart Mike Gillis spoke as recently as two weeks ago, at which time the Canucks demands were reduced from the bounty they requested at the draft, but not enough for the Leafs to agree to anything.
At the draft, reports indicated Vancouver asked for centre Tyler Bozak, defenceman Jake Gardiner, a first round pick and winger Matt Frattin in exchange for the 33-year-old Luongo. The Leafs had no interest in paying that kind of price, largely because there is no significant market for the services of the veteran goaltender.
The Leafs, however, have only James Reimer on their NHL roster, and he's a goalie in search of bounce-back season himself. So they have a definite need for quality veteran goaltending and the Canucks need to get Luongo out-of-town.
So talks have continued on and off, with Bozak as the centre-piece. Vancouver believes Bozak would be a good fit as their No. 3 centre behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. The Leafs might be willing to pay more than Bozak, but how much more is unclear.
The most recent owner's CBA proposal, meanwhile, may have altered the temperature of talks between the two clubs.
Luongo has 10 years remaining on a contract that comes with a cap hit of $5.33 million per season and expires in 2022. His actual salary is $6.714 million for the next six seasons, including the 2012-13 campaign, but then drops by 50 per cent in the seventh year and to $1 million in each of the final two.
The belief has long been with this contract that he'll play for six years, then retire, taking the Canucks off the hook for the cap hit in the final four years.
But as The Star reported exclusively last month - a report that was dismissed by pro-union media - the majority of owners and the Bettman administration are intent on punishing teams that insisted on doing quasi-legal backsiiding contracts like Luongo's. It was no surprise, then, the owner's proposal of earlier this week included a provision that for contracts longer than five years, every year of the contract would count against the cap even if the player didn't play.
Morever, if a player with such a contract was traded and then retired before the contract expired, the remaining annual cap hit would revert to the team that signed the player in the first place.
So for Luongo, if the Leafs acquired him and he retired after the 2017-18 season, the Canucks would then have to swallow the $5.33 million cap hit for the final four years.
Now, nobody knows if that provision will be included in the final CBA, or whether there will even be a CBA in the near future or this season.
But if that clause were to be included, it would make a Luongo deal more attractive to the Leafs, and possibly make Burke more willing to meet Gillis' demands.
For now, it's all hypothetical. There is no deal or deal-in-principle, and it seems likely both teams will want to know the terms of the new CBA before a trade is possible.