Photo credit: Vancouver Sun
Contrary to popular belief, there apparently is a market for a top-flight, 55-60-plus games per season, Olympic gold medal-winning, one win short of winning the Stanley Cup kind of goaltender.
On the same day the Toronto Maple Leafs fired GM Brian Burke for, among other reasons I’m sure, not pursuing Luongo as aggressively as some in the organization wanted, and replaced him with Dave Nonis, who, incidentally, was rumored to have been fired from the Canucks for not pursuing Brad Richards as aggressively as some in the organization wanted, the rumor mill started churning.
The Philadelphia Flyers, who probably don’t mind Ilya Bryzgalov’s worldly views but moreso his 0.887 save percentage and 3.46 GAA in last year’s playoffs, are now rumored to be interested in Bobby Luo.
Add them to the list with the Leafs, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Florida Panthers, and perhaps, even the Edmonton Oilers.
The belief out there is that Luongo’s contract is too big a risk to take on, especially with the new CBA penalties for teams with backdiving contracts – my good friend Tom here calls it a millstone – and it could hamper any trade leverage the Canucks have. But the new CBA may actually be helping the Canucks in this situation. More specifically, now that teams are allowed up to 2 compliance buyouts over the next two off-seasons, and these buyout amounts won’t count towards the salary cap, it may very well be creating some additional suitors for Luongo’s services.
Take the Flyers, for instance. In any normal season, Bryzgalov’s 9-year contract would, in all likelihood, remove them from the running for any Luongo deal. But what now if they can buy him out and not have the buyout amount charged against the cap? A Bryzgalov buyout could cost the team upwards of $17 million. But how much do the Flyers really want the somewhat flaky goaltender in front of an otherwise young and very good group of players for another 8 seasons? Like a lot of teams, they want to win now and I’d dare say wouldn’t care much about a $2 million cap hit penalty 7 years – several years – from now when the cap will most likely be in the $80-$90 million range anyway.
Is this enough to improve what the Canucks receive in return for the winningest goaltender in its franchise history? Can the additional market turn a return of Cody Franson to Jake Gardiner, or Matt Read to Sean Couturier, or Stephen Weiss to Jonathan Huberdeau? Maybe not quite. But it certainly won’t hurt.