In the final hours leading up to the expiration of the NHL collective bargaining agreement, the Toronto Maple Leafs were reportedly still seeking an experienced starting goaltender.
TVA Sports’ Enrico Ciccone claimed Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke contacted the Vancouver Canucks at the end of last week to enquire about veteran netminder Roberto Luongo.
As the Toronto Sun observed, this isn’t the first time the Leafs have had trade talks about Luongo, as they (along with the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks) were rumored in the spring to have interest in the 33-year-old goalie.
Luongo, of course, has a full no-trade clause, which provides with him full control over where he’s dealt once a new CBA is in place. Florida, where he played five seasons before his 2006 trade to the Canucks, is his destination of choice.
But if a trade to the Panthers isn’t feasible, Luongo will face pressure from Canucks management to consider other destinations.
Depending on how long the lockout lasts and what’s contained in the new CBA, interest in Luongo could increase when the league eventually returns to action and GMs start discussing trades again.
Burke has repeatedly claimed he wouldn’t be rushed into acquiring an experienced starter and continued to express confidence in young James Reimer. Thus far, he’s made no comment regarding this new rumor that links his club to Luongo.
If, however, Burke was seriously pursuing Luongo, he could have a difficult time selling ‘Bobby Lu’ on the merits of joining the Maple Leafs when the lockout ends.
Goalie coach Francois Allaire recently quit the Leafs and claimed interference from others within the organization prevented him from properly doing his job. That prompted Burke to claim Allaire’s goaltending style was outdated.
Factor in the Leafs last made the playoffs in 2004, plus the growing dissatisfaction among Toronto fans and media over Burke’s brusque management style and the Leafs appear a dysfunctional franchise spinning its wheels in the NHL’s largest and most demanding market.
Those are hardly the kind of selling points to convince Luongo that Toronto is worth waiving his no-trade clause for.
Even if Burke convinced Luongo to join the Leafs, the Canucks’ asking price would be steep.
When the Leafs GM made his initial enquires last spring, it was rumored the Canucks wanted defenseman Luke Schenn (whom Burke later dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers) in the deal.
With Schenn out of the picture, it’s been suggested the Canucks would want promising center Joe Colborne, defenseman Jake Gardiner or right winger Carter Ashton as part of the return, along with a good young roster player.
Even if Burke landed Luongo, he’d still have other issues to address, such as finding a first-line center, adding more defensive grit and improving the penalty kill.
One can scarcely blame Burke for making enquiries about Luongo. If he truly hopes to bolster his goaltending, however, his best option is to wait for a new CBA in hopes a significantly lowered salary cap will force other clubs to shed salary and provide Burke more affordable options.
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.