To buy out, or to not buy out. That’s the question.
A year ago the Vancouver Canucks benched their star goaltender during the playoffs making it clear his days were done as their number one goalie. The next logical step would be to trade Roberto Luongo and his 5.3 million dollars annual cap-hit the following off-season. The Canucks’ GM, Mike Gillis, thought the price teams offered to pay for his elite goaltender wasn’t fair and there would be a better scenario by the following trade deadline.
That didn’t happen either. Gillis answer when asked about his failure to move Luongo for any valuable asset in return by then was that there would be an “even better market” and he would be in a stronger position to negotiate during the second offseason. Really? With the league heading to a more restricted salary cap (down to 63 million from 70) and with the new CBA rules allowing compliance buyout and the cap benefit recapture rule, how come there would be a more favorable scenario to trade Luongo for anything valuable other than getting rid of his salary and its 5.3 million dollar cap hit?
I might be wrong and Gillis might just struck a magic number, pull a rabbit out of the hat and effectively get anything useful in return, but I just don’t see that coming. In the end, he might have lost all the opportunities he had and be forced to spend one of his two allowed compliance buyout on Luongo, instead of saving it to buy out David Booth next year (he can’t exercise this option now because Booth is injured and we all know the other bought out contract is going to be Keith Ballard’s).
The Toronto Maple Leafs are out of the market since acquiring promising young goaltender Jonathan Bernier form the Los Angeles Kings, so that option and whatever the Leafs might be willing to send in return are gone. The Philadelphia Flyers are expected to buy out Ilya Bryzgalov monstrous contract, so what might you think they would be willing to trade for Luongo and acquire another even more monstrous and risking contract? Luongo’s contract cap hit isn’t that bad at 5.3 million annually in the light of recent signed players, but if he retires before the end of his contract – which runs through the 2021-22 season – the Flyers, or whomever acquire him via trade or waivers, would have to deal with the 5.3 million cap hit until that season, and that even if he eventually retires, let’s say, after the 2017-18 season. That’s way too risky.
On the other hand, that could be a perfect fit for teams constantly worried about reaching the minimum payroll requirement, like the New York Islanders (does the Tim Thomas trade ring a bell?) and the Florida Panthers. Furthermore, we know Roberto Luongo would be more than willing to wave his no trade clause to move back to Florida and make his wife, a Florida native, a happier wife. But, what about waving it to re-join the NY Islanders, the team that told him he was their goaltender of the future to only dispatch him to Florida right after that? Once again, I might be being too skeptical, but I just don’t see that coming. And let’s not even mention the possibility of Luongo desiring to move to Edmonton or Columbus.
I am a huge fan of Luongo, I’ve always been, and I wish he does get the opportunity to play for a team who believes in him, who will treat him with respect and who will give him the possibility to prove himself, again, as an elite goaltender in this league. However, as a Canucks’ fan, I would hope his departure from Vancouver would bring some valuable asset in return. Unfortunately, it seems the Vancouver Canucks just don’t have the right man in the GM position to do it and, in the end he might have to decide whether to buy him out, or not to buy him out.