Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault stirred up the rumor mill late last week when, in an interview with TVA Sports, he said goaltender Roberto Luongo had requested a trade.
“This is what he wants now,” Vigneault said, adding management would act in the club’s best interest while trying to do what’s best for Luongo as well.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis was quick to walk back Vigneault’s comments, telling the Vancouver Sun his coach later corrected his statement, saying he “misspoke” and “didn’t mean what he said.”
Gillis maintained Luongo’s stance all along has been he’d accept a trade if it best suited the team, but that he hadn’t requested to be dealt.
Whether Vigneault misspoke or not, Gillis’ subsequent attempt at damage control will do little to dampen speculation Luongo will be traded this summer.
The problem for Gillis will be finding trade partners willing to take the remaining 10 years of Luongo’s 12-year, $64-million contract, with its annual cap hit of $5.3 million, as well as a team the goalie would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to.
It was believed the Tampa Bay Lightning were among the teams on Luongo’s list of preferred destinations, but recent comments by Lightning GM Steve Yzerman suggest they’re not interested.
Yzerman claimed he’d look toward the trade market (leading up to free agency) for a No. 1 goalie, but his preference was to go with “a little bit younger guy that maybe has a little less experience that can step up and play well for us now.”
He cited 24-year-old Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov as an example. If he can’t find that type of netminder in a trade, he’ll turn toward the unrestricted free agent market.
Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times listed Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings and Anders Lindback of the Nashville Predators among those who fit the bill via the trade market, while 27-year-old Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild might work through free agency.
James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail pointed out it will be difficult to move Luongo to the other teams believed to be on his “wish list.”
The Florida Panthers appear committed to Jose Theodore and promising Jacob Markstrom, while the Chicago Blackhawks have two goalies under contract and are conference rivals of the Canucks.
It was believed the New Jersey Devils might be a destination, but given Martin Brodeur’s performance in this spring’s playoffs, he could very well return next season.
That would leave the Toronto Maple Leafs, but GM Brian Burke has clashed with Gillis in the past, plus he’s not a fan of long-term contracts such as the one possessed by Luongo.
In a recent interview with TVA Sports, Burke declined to say if he had interest in Luongo and cited the league’s tampering rules. However, he did confirm he’s had “no serious discussion” about the goaltender.
Burke’s assistant GM Dave Nonis, meanwhile, acknowledged the Leafs are in the market for a veteran netminder.
While Luongo’s name remains in the mix, Toronto will consider other options, such as pending UFA Tomas Vokoun from the Washington Capitals.
Burke has maintained his faith in young James Reimer as a future starter for the Leafs, plus they also have Ben Scrivens waiting in the wings. Adding Luongo would ensure neither have a future with the Maple Leafs.
Vokoun, on the other hand, would be an intriguing short-term option. Though he turns 36 in July, he’s posted very good numbers over the years. While hampered in part by injury this season in Washington, Vokoun still finished with a respectable 2.51 goals-against average and .917 save percentage, considerably better than the numbers posted by Reimer (3.10 GAA, .900 SP) and Jonas Gustavsson (2.92 GAA, .902 SP).
If the Leafs plan to stick with Reimer and bring up Scrivens in a year or two, signing Vokoun for one or two years would be a more worthwhile short-term decision.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla’s Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.