Roberto Luongo is all but gone, and will be traded to a Canadian rival when the collective bargaining agreement is ratified, according to a Sportsnet report.
At least you’ll still get to see him plenty of Saturday nights, if Sportsnet is on point. Well, let’s face it, you’ll see him just about every Saturday night.
Toronto has been our betting favourite when handicapping Luongo’s most likely destination since Steve Yzerman and Tampa Bay refused to enter the sweepstakes which began the moment Cory Schneider started consecutive playoff games.
Toronto was closest to a deal for Luongo at the draft, in a negotiation which included the Leafs offering Luke Schenn and the Canucks countering by asking for Jake Gardiner-plus-plus-plus.
There were was a moment in there where Vancouver thought they were about to get a deal done. But there were rumours Luongo was unwilling to waive his no-trade to go to the Leafs. Really, to go anywhere but Florida.
BUY THE EBOOK: LUONGO IN VANCOUVER
Luongo then was still hopeful a deal to the Panthers could work out and his agent was working the angle behind the scenes. But Luongo had something of an epiphany in September when he met with Canucks management in Vancouver and was told Florida was all but out.
Near the same time as the summit meeting, Vancouver GM Mike Gillis said the Leafs had several assets which could get a trade for Luongo done.
Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Wednesday night the Leafs have agreed to move one of those assets and as a result the two teams have agreed to a deal in principle which will be announced sometime after the CBA is done.
Multiple Canucks’ sources played down the report, including Gillis. But they had reactions which needled more toward the category of a non-denial denials.
The Province asked Gillis if the deal with Toronto was close, citing the Sportsnet report. He managed to both deny the report and dance around it all in one answer.
“The definition of close is different for everybody,” Gillis told The Province and TEAM 1040.
“I’m not sure why John would say that because that’s certainly not the case.
“Everybody is also entitled to speculate on whatever they want to speculate on.
“We’ve moved very slowly on any discussions with Roberto –- we’ll trade him when we get want we want to get for him, or we won’t trade him, and either way it’s fine with me.
“You know, if we can get something that’s going to help us and move our team forward in different areas, we’re certainly going to consider it.
“But that hasn’t occurred yet, so I’m not sure why that would be said.”
The type of player the Canucks have been seeking in return isn’t a secret. They have wanted a promising young player who can contribute in the NHL soon on an entry-level contract.
The Canucks need two things — cap space and youth.
Before negotiations with Florida fell totally off the rails, the Canucks were chasing highly touted 6-foot-4 centre Nick Bjugstad. The Leafs closest comparable is probably 6-foot-5 centre Joe Colborne.
Any deal still has to go through Luongo, who has final say with his no-trade. But he wants to start and move on from Vancouver. It leaves him with limited options.
Interestingly, in the weeks leading up to the CBA expiring, the Canucks were still entertaining offers, including a bid for Luongo from the Edmonton Oilers and another from a mystery team which got involved late. And by mystery team we mean not one of the usual suspects, including Chicago and Columbus.
It’s conceivable that, even if the Toronto deal is close, one of these teams could still win over the Canucks with a terrific offer at the midnight hour.
So, even if the trade isn’t quite wrapped up, it certainly doesn’t hurt the Canucks that other suitors believe it is. The Canucks up until now have taken their time with the Luongo trade and this report creates urgency.
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