PITTSBURGH — The good news for Vancouver is that general managers continue to call about its goalies. Even better news: not all the calls have been about the availability of Cory Schneider.
The Canucks contend they have time to be patient in searching out a Roberto Luongo trade.
So, they won’t be calling Luongo to get his stamp of approval if the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to offer something just south of nothing for the 33-year-old throughout the NHL Draft weekend.
Lots of time, the Canucks say, to get the right Luongo deal done. It doesn’t have to happen this weekend. But it sure would help. That may be why the Luongo talk started heating up late Thursday.
“The draft may be the most opportune time to make trades because you have 30 teams, 30 general managers and all their personnel in such close proximity,” said Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman.
“It also happens on the eve of free agency, on July 1. So, the situation lends itself to talking trades.”
That GM Mike Gillis has been listening to offers from “numerous” GMs and making progress this week without a working wish list from Luongo can be interpreted as a strong sign Luongo is open to a lot more destinations than just five.
“There is interest that’s in place right now,” Gilman said. “It is conceivable that we could make a deal this weekend.”
It would make sense that Luongo is open to lots of options when his alternative is the possibility of sitting on the bench next spring watching Schneider start more postseason games.
Is it enough to have him agree to go to Columbus, which has shown some significant interest? That’s a tough one and remains to be seen.
Gilman said there is no team the Canucks wouldn’t be willing to trade with, which is easy to say now but would be put to the test if, say, the Chicago Blackhawks made a run at Luongo.
“If we think we can get a player who is going to make us better, we wouldn’t bypass a potential trading partner,” he said. “You make trades with teams, and they are trying to get better as well. The question is, can you get better?
“If we feel we can make a deal with somebody close to us and we’re going to give ourselves a better chance to win the Stanley Cup, we’ll do it.”
Dovetailing with the issues stacked up in its net, Vancouver has another pressing problem that must be given a long look at the draft. The team that says it will be going all-in next year to win the Stanley Cup has a deep crater to be filled at centre. If they are without Ryan Kesler to start the season, right now the centres who would line up would be Henik Sedin at No. 1 and Max Lapierre at No. 2.
The effort to fix things at the trade deadline was, to be kind, inadequate. Even Samme Pahlsson knew he was done, retiring from the NHL to Sweden this offseason without even waiting to see if there was interest in free agency.
Now, the Canucks must take another swing at finding a centre. If they miss again, expect to hear the name Cody Hodgson a lot more next year.
“If there are centres available (via trade), we’ll take a look at them, for sure,” Gilman said. “No question about it.”
The Canucks are reluctant, for now, to trade their first-round pick, 26th overall, concerned about what that would mean for their prospect pool, which is already shallow.
“To the extent I lie awake at night, one of the reasons is the concern I have that you have to continue to have young players come along in your system or you will, more or less, hit a cliff at some point,” Gilman said. “We’ve been fortunate with having Chris Tanev in our lineup. We have Zack Kassian. We feel it is incumbent on us moving forward to have young players.
“If you continue to make youth-for-age deals, or give away draft picks, you will take away your ability to have success later on.
“It’s a balancing act. There is no question. We are going for it now. We are trying to win this year.”
Of course, a Luongo deal could change the dynamic. The Canucks could either get the centre they are looking for or enough assets in return, in players or draft picks, to go and get a deal done.
As far as the draft goes, Gilman said the team feels it’s deep at defence and in goal and will be leaning toward a forward, especially a centre, in the first round.
“If we were to assess a need we have, it’d be at forwards, perhaps centre in particular,” Gilman said. “That being said, in the four years we’ve been here and run the draft, we’ve picked the best player based on skill at the top part of the draft, in the first and second rounds.
“Then, we’ve started to address positional needs as the drafts unfolded.”
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