Roberto Luongo: Will He Be A Toronto Maple Leaf?

April 24th, 2012 25 Comments

A few weeks ago Toronto Maple Leafs general manager held his year end press conference with the media to discuss the 2011-12 season and the direction he plans on taking the Maple Leafs.

During that press conference Burke made it abundantly clear that he wanted to make an upgrade between the pipes, which will likely see Jonas Gustavsson let go and James Reimer stay with the big club with an additional netminder being brought in to solidify the goaltending position.

As we have discussed here in other articles, there are very few goaltending options for Burke via free agency this summer, which means, if Burke is going to upgrade one of his goalies at the AHL level will have to shine during the pre-season or, more likely, Burke will have to acquire a goaltender via trade.

Anytime you talk about a goaltender being traded a few names continually pop up—Corey Schneider (who isn’t going anywhere), Jonathan Bernier (who is still relatively unproven) and Roberto Luongo.

After a shaky finish to the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Luongo rebounded with an excellent 2011-12 regular season, posting a record of 31-14-8 through 55 games to go along with five shutouts, a tidy .919 save percentage (fifth best of his 12 season career) and a more than respectable 2.41 goals against average (fourth lowest of his career).

While Luongo’s numbers are still amongst the leagues best, there are other numbers that concern every NHL general manager—his cap hit.

Luongo (33) currently has ten years left on his contract which will see him earn nearly $54 million.

As far as his cap hit goes, Luongo is set to carry a $6.7 million cap hit from 2012-13 through 2018, $3.4 million for the 2018-19 season, followed by three very reasonable seasons at $1.6 million in 2019-20, $1.0 million in 2020-21 and $1.0 million in 2021-22.

With that in mind, the final three seasons of Luongo’s contract could be bought out by a team, or Luongo could retire after seven more seasons, effectively eliminating his salary from the books.

So, what we are left with is this—six seasons at $6.7 million in salary and one season at $3.4 million. The cap hit for each of those seasons would be $5,333,333, same as the final three seasons.

Complicating matters further is the fact that Luongo has a no-trade clause, but when Luongo was interviewed this week, he said he would be willing to waive his no-trade, if the Vancouver Canucks asked him to.
With Burke identifying goaltending as an organizational need and many fans questioning James Reimer’s ability to be a true number one goalie, is there room in Burke’s budget to bring Luongo into the fold?

On the surface, no.

According to capgeek.com, Burke has approximately $56.7 million wrapped up in 17 players for the 2012-13 season. Based on today’s $64.3 million salary cap, that leaves Burke with little monies with which to make upgrades and/or sign his own free agents and restricted free agents.

At a cap hit just north of $5.3 million, adding Luongo to the mix would take some creative accounting and player movement, but hey, that’s why they pay Burkie the big bucks, right?

Rumors suggest that Burke may get some cap relief in the form of an increase in the cap ceiling via a new CBA agreement, while other rumors suggest the new CBA may include a one-time amnesty for NHL teams to buy out a player contract without penalty.

If one or both of these scenario’s came true, Burke might just bite the bullet and approach the Canucks about the possibility of bringing Luongo to Toronto. Outside of some favorable changes to the CBA, Burke could approach the owners of the Maple Leafs about burying another contract in the AHL, a la Jeff Finger, but that request will not be met without some level of resistance.

Of course, should Burke manage to pull off a deal for Luongo there will be plenty of praise and an equal amount of criticism thrown his way.

Make no mistake about it, for the most part, Roberto Luongo is a money goaltender during the regular season, but his playoff struggles are well documented, which may cause a number of NHL general manager’s and fans alike to question whether or not Luongo is worth the price tag he comes with and the headache he could become if he failed to perform.

One things for sure, with Corey Schneider emerging as a legitimate number one goaltender this season, the Vancouver Canucks must give serious consideration to trading Luongo.

As far as the price tag for Luongo goes, one has to believe that the cap relief the Canucks would get would be enough for Vancouver to consider the move—a player of great significance coming to Vancouver would seem unlikely.

Will Roberto Luongo be a Toronto Maple Leaf next season? Time will tell. One thing is for certain—the more you look around Burke has few options with which to upgrade his goaltending.

Burke knows he has a question mark between the pipes— the question is, does Burke think Luongo is the answer?

Until next time,

Peace!

25 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    A good read as usual brother. You make some great points and although I’m not a Luongo fan – the move does make a lot of sense on many levels. Another link to create more specuation is that Dave Nonis brought Luongo into Vancouver with that lop sided Bertuzzi trade (I think Bert managed 2 games for the Panthers during his tenure lol). I wonder if Nonis is an advocate here for Lou.

    My 2 cents is that Burke and Co. will have to do their due dilligence on this one. Thats what these guys are paid to do, if for no other reason, simply to find the tempature in Vancouver for this and what the asking prices are. Big question is, who makes that call – given Burke and Nonis’ bad blood with Gillis, I wonder if the phone gets handed to someone else on the team to make the calls. Fortunetly for us, theres quite the team there (Fletcher, Loiselle, Dudley, or Poulin).

    My thoughts are that a MacArthur or a Gunnerson can get it done maybe with a mid to late pick. Thoughts?

    Dave

  2. Dave says:

    On second thought – what if we traded problems and provided an incentive player. Keeps salaries even too which we are typically seeing in trades now a days. Wonder if a Komo or Lombardi with a mid level prospect would fly. I guess it boils down to who other teams will offer if any other teams are interested. Maybe New Jersey/Chicago or Tampa gets in on this?

    Dave

  3. MarkRitter says:

    Hey Dave-

    I don’t pretend to know what it would take to land Luongo. One scenario that would create a bidding war IMO is if Brodeur retired. Luongo would be a really nice fit in that relaxed orgaization, and with Brodeur gone, Lou Lamorello will be looking for a netminder…Maybe thats where Roberto lands??? (if Brodeur retires)….and yes, Tampa will be in on this—Yzerman picked Luongo to play in the Olympics, he can’t be that down on him! Chicago? No…I think Crawford is a hell of a goalie, just needs time…

  4. Mark Ritter says:

    Dave—

    After reading your comment it has become very clear that the Maple Leafs have grossly overpaid for their management team. I mean, holy crap— Burke, Nonis and Dudley alone are costing this team upwards of $5 million per season AND this team has posted a sub-.500 record every year Burke has been here. I know Burke was served a poo-sandwich when he took over, but really— all that management talent and we have little to show for it. THN ranks the Maple Leafs overall under-21 talent at 21st in the NHL. While not perfect, THN is pretty good at ranking the under-21 talent in the league, so as much as we are all pointing to the success the Marlies are having, we have to keep in mind the two best players on that squad may actually be a couple of vets in Hamilton and Ziggy. Neither Colborne or Kadri have made a dent at centre at the NHL level and outside of a few good games this season Scrivens and Rynnas struggled at the NHL level as well. At $5 million per, the Maple Leafs management team must be expected to be better—make sharp moves and find the diamonds in the rough. Not sure they are doing that, so why have this dream team if they cannot get results?

  5. Hudson says:

    All good discussion points, nice article.

    Forget the management payroll. That I can live with, even with the poor results. This team is loaded. What about the team’s cap? Money management on the team has been abysmal. $56 mil for a non playoff team? For the second youngest team in the NHL? Whaaaat? It’s just shocking. We should have a crapload of cap. Just look at Detroit, I mean – wow. I have been amazed at what we’re paying versus what we’ve got for a couple of years now.

    I hope we free up space by shipping out what is possible from our bad contracts. I want Colby, Komi and possibly Lombardi gone too.

    Regarding the whole Luongo thing, I am on the fence. What I do know is that we haven’t had a top goalie here in a loooong time. And without bringing him here, what else is out there? Not a lot.

    You know Mark, no one on TV or radio has mentioned New Jersey (all about Florida mostly), and when I read that from you, it really does make sense. Nice call. Maybe a lot will depend on what happens Thursday. =) At 39, Marty does have a couple years left. He did bounce back this year…

  6. Jeff says:

    komisarek or lombardi and a mid level prospect for luongo??? come, let’s get real. I’m a Leafs fan, but I read posts from other leafs fans and they always think that we can land great players by trading away our unwanted ones. It’s not how it works. I don’t know what it will take to get luongo, but you gotta think it’s gonna take a pretty good offer. despite fans and media being down on him, he’s still an elite goalie. I’m not saying I want him… I guess we’ll see.

  7. Dave says:

    Looks like your on to something here dude. TSN is now reporting that Lu will be sending his short in to management very soon and Toronto is reported to be on that list. I find that a little weird given the pressures of Vancouver and how that will be equaled or magnified here in Toronto. This is going to get interesting. Say what you want about Lu and his contract (and again, I’m not a Lu fan) but he will definetley improve this club by leas and bounds if he materializes.

    Dave

  8. MarkRitter says:

    Jeff—

    It’s funny, just about everyone I hear from says the same thing—”he’s an elite goalie, but I do not know if I want him”. I think if there wasn’t a cap Leaf fans would be drooling over the prospect of bringing Luongo to town. The move makes sense, the dollars are the sticking point.

  9. MarkRitter says:

    Can’t take credit for starting the Luongo debate, although I did debate him coming to Toronto a week ago, and last season! Things heated up when McKenzie presented the idea on TSN. The bottom line is this—should Luongo come to Toronto the chances the team makes the playoffs improve greatly. With that in mind, Burke may have to consider the move. That said, I still like the idea of bringing in a younger goalie (Luongo is 31) and letting that kid grow with the team. Again, I am looking at 2014 as the season for Burke’s team to peak, so what is the hurry on Luongo? Bernier…that’s my guy…failing that, I dunno, maybe it is Luongo???

  10. MarkRitter says:

    Brodeur will probably re-sign, but if he doesn’t, Luongo would make a lot of sense and probably solidify the Devils chances of keeping Parise. Without an elite goalie the Devils are a very average team.

  11. Dave says:

    Jeff, generally speaking you are correct. Bear in mid though that this is a very cumbersome contact that is to be moved which means a couple things. First and foremost, the team must have the ability to suck up a minimum of 5 million in salary. We all know Lu will not play until he is 43. That also says nothing towards a buy out if Lu fails over the next 3 to 5 years. Teams that can take the latter year hits when we all know he wont be playing off the top of my head without financial worries are: the Rangers, Leafs, Montreal and maybe Detriot. I would eliminate all of those teams with one exception: Toronto. Can Tampa stomach this type of deal, can Chicago, can New Jersey? Doubtful given a few reasons. Chicago has been through cap hell – why go back there especially when you have an upstart in Crawford. Tampa? Well they were near bankruptcy a few years back and were having ownership issues and receiving tranfer payments from the league to stay afloat so I would again say doubtful given the contract. New Jersey, Winnik is in trouble with the city and losing boatloads of money. Even Kypreos has reported the team is near dire financial straights. So again – doubtful.

    It is also reported by TSN that Lu has submitted a short list and Toronto is on it. Question is who else is and do they have the financial means to pull off the move – given what I said above, I doubt it.

    If there is no market for Lu and he truly has asked to get out – that would indicate that the return will be little.

    Burke has also shown that he can unload guys with talent that just couldnt make it here for whatever reason and turn those players into top level talent. See Lupul and Gardiner. Phaneuf is another (granted he had some rough spots this year. I would still argue he is an elite defensmen).

    Either way, this is going to get interesting dude!

    Dave

  12. Hudson says:

    Luongo is 33, Mark.

    I think he has a good 5 years in him. And he would be a good mentor for Reimer. At this point, there is no question Reimer is a backup goalie until he proves otherwise.

    Just for the sake of comparison, if we can pay Giggy 6 million, I am fine with Luongo being our new $6 million man.

    Look, at the end of this contract, you’ve basically got a buyout situation. What if you end up having to pay him $20 at the end to send him on his way? Is that a lot for a team like the Leafs? What do you think the profits for the Leafs stand to be if they make the playoffs for the next five years? Huge.

    There is no guarantee that that happens. But the Leafs stand to lose a lot more potential money if they don’t do the move.

  13. Hudson says:

    I would also argue that Vancouver is a harder place to play. Those a-holes get nasty. Then you have the tight-assed screamers/boo-ers in Montreal. How’d you like to play there? Toronto is third on the list when you really look at. We have the most media, not the worst. I will admit, the dissection level here is greatest. But it is not the harshest.

  14. Hudson says:

    Man, I keep posting, sorry. But I think Luongo could transition to backup as he nears 40, and be admirable to even 41. At the rate his pay starts dropping, the optics improve. Then you throw away a few million at the end…big whoop.

  15. MarkRitter says:

    Hey Hud-

    Yeah, had 33 in the article and then had the brain cramp in my comment!

    Time will tel what happens…

  16. Hudson says:

    Happens to me to often, lol. It will be interesting for sure.

  17. Dave says:

    No sense in appologzing for posting Hud – the more in the debate the better! Besides, if you need to appologize, I’d better start doing hail marys!!!

    I’m warming to the idea of having Lu brought into town. I’m not sure if thats becasue I’m just looking for a quick fix or if its because I think he could be the answer down the road to the buds making a cup run. I just struggle with the fact that for some reason, I just cant seem to like the guy. Not sure why that is, but its just a lingering feeling.

    What do you think? Would you bring him here? If so, at at what cost?

    I am sticking by my prediction that because of the “bad” contract, it is likely whoever gets him will be sending a similar bad contract back the other way and have the throw in a prospect and a pick.

    Dave

  18. Hudson says:

    Heya Dave, and thanks!

    I have warmed to the thought too after really being on the fence. I posted in the newer thread to respond to Mark’s new article and the comments there.

    Sounds like you guys are local to each other. Would be fun to be around for some brews and the Leaf chats myself. =)

  19. Dave says:

    For sure dude…theres always an extra barstool kicking around somewhere. We actually used to be local but unfortunetly not anymore. We go an awful long way back though – lots of fun stories believe me! Were going to have to fix that distance issue soon though 😉

    Its great to see your passion on the boards and you certainly are articulate and have some great hockey sense bro!

    Cheers,

    Dave

  20. Hudson says:

    I ride both your hockey writing coattails. =)

    I wish! I am in Michigan now. Would be fun to have guys like you to sit in my bar with me (remote enough that I had to build one in my pole barn, with Center Ice of course!).

    I miss being in Toronto sometimes. I was born there. While in college, I lived at Young and Carlton in 96-97. Almost the last year of MLG! Used to watch the games, then the fans pour east on the north side of that apartment building, eleven floors up =). Poor student at the time, and I never saw a game there as an adult. I lived at Queen & Spadina too, a couple blocks west for 4 more years.

    Are you guys in Toronto? You guys ever live around downtown? Or in suburbs, elsewhere, etc?

  21. Mark Ritter says:

    haha— Good neighborhoods you mention Hud!

    Not in the T.O. anymore, but yes, was born and raised there. Used to own Richmond street back in the day—lots of great bars!, and Dave and I “know” some of the bad hoods pretty well!

    Cheers man!

  22. Hudson says:

    Oops fans pour west, I meant. Was west of MLG, right on the corner of Yonge. Man I spelled that wrong too.

    Ah Richmond. I used to love the then ‘new’ theater too. I would go down by myself sometimes for movies and load my popcorn with their awesome salt and vinegar powder. Haven’t found that anywhere down here. Yep, lots of fun bars and good times.

    Cheers! 😉

  23. neinking says:

    Its great to see your passion on the boards and you certainly are articulate and have some great hockey sense bro!

Leave a Reply