Fans and reporters continue to speculate, and Canucks' GM Mike Gillis continues to insist that he won't do a deal unless he gets fair value in return. Here's what he told Dan Rosen of nhl.com on November 10:
If we're going to make a transaction, do anything, it's going to be done so we can improve our team in other ways. When you take an All-Star player off your team, you have to do that with a lot of faith that you're improving in different areas.
As James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail reported in October, Toronto became a serious contender when John Shannon of Sportnet announced that the Leafs and Canucks had an agreement in principle for a Luongo deal.
Both sides denied the story, but Toronto makes sense.
The Leafs have the budget to absorb Luongo's salary and could really use a top-level netminder to try to pull their team back into playoff contention. The two sides were talking about a deal during the summer and Luongo would likely be happy to waive his no-trade clause to play in a dynamic market with a bright media spotlight. Travel's not even too bad between Toronto and his family's home base in South Florida.
The other teams that have been bandied about recently have been Edmonton and Chicago, but neither seems likely. Both have budget limitations—the Oilers, primarily because they can't get a deal for a new arena, while the Hawks continue to operate close to the salary cap ceiling. They had to let Antti Niemi go for nothing after their 2010 Stanley Cup win because they couldn't afford to absorb his $2.75 million arbitration award.
The Oilers and Hawks are also problematic because of their rivalry with Vancouver. It's very unlikely that Mike Gillis wants to place Luongo somewhere that he'll be facing his old teammates several times a year and possibly even in a playoff series. Unless they ante up with an offer Gillis can't refuse—maybe a player like Jordan Eberle—these two teams are probably non-starters.
Of course, Luongo's preferred destination is Florida, but that's also looking increasingly unlikely. Even after their success in 2011-12, the Panthers are essentially a 'have-not' team that doesn't want to take on Luongo's big contract, especially not if it means sacrificing a top prospect. As James Mirtle puts it, "the Panthers have an up-and-comer in goal in Jacob Markstrom and aren’t willing to offer anything other than some dead weight to the Canucks."
Other possibilities may present themselves once the CBA is settled and play resumes, but for the moment it looks like Luongo's either going to the Leafs, or he's going to be with the Canucks for awhile yet. Talking to Dan Rosen, Mike Gillis still seems comfortable biding his time:
I don't see that big of an issue if Roberto is with us. I don't see that as an issue at all. I think he's a true professional and I know he and Cory [Schneider] have a great relationship. You know, that may end up being the plan depending on when we get started. I think they would both be fine with it. We're going to do what is best for our hockey team. We're going to make sure we're in the best position to win the Stanley Cup and that may be with both goaltenders.
At this point, it looks like the best deal may well be no deal at all.
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