TORONTO – Goaltender Roberto Luongo issued a tweet on Sunday that said: “So (what) do we do now?”
Many Toronto fans may be asking the same question after months of speculation over whether the veteran goaltender with the 12-year contract will be joining the Maple Leafs from the Vancouver Canucks for the lockout-shortened NHL season.
The league and union reached a tentative deal early Sunday. The agreement still needs to be formally ratified by both sides.
Luongo, now considered the backup in Vancouver behind Cory Schneider, is reported to be on the market, although the Canucks could still opt to keep him and then either trade him or buy him out at the end of the 2013-’14 campaign.
Vancouver assistant general manager Laurence Gilman said Sunday that Luongo is expected to report to Canucks training camp.
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has denied that a deal has already been made for the 33-year-old Luongo, who is signed through 2021 at an average of US$5.3 million per season.
Finding reliable, veteran goaltending is key for Toronto, which has seen James Reimer, Ben Scrivens and Jonas Gustavsson struggle through the last two campaigns. Gustavsson signed with Detroit in the off-season.
The Leafs can afford Luongo since they have 22 players signed for a total salary-cap hit of $63.5 million. The pro-rated cap for this season is expected to be $70.2 million, although it drops to $64.3 million in 2013-14.
Reimer caused a bit of a stir in the fall as he skated with Canucks players at the University of British Columbia, raising the question of whether he knew of a deal involving him and Luongo. Reimer denied knowing of any trade and said he was just in Vancouver visiting his wife’s family.
The Leafs have one restricted free agent to sign, defenceman Cody Franson.
They will need him, as Jake Gardiner is likely to miss time with a head injury. Their other roster defencemen are Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek, John-Michael Liles, Carl Gunnarsson and Korbinian Holzer.
A bigger concern will be next season, when Joffrey Lupul, Clarke MacArthur, Tim Connolly, Matt Lombardi, Tyler Bozak and David Steckel are slated to become free agents.
Lupul, whose 25 goals and 67 points in 66 games was second on the team to Phil Kessel’s 82 points in 82 games, will likely be looking for a long-term deal.