It seems logical, even obvious, that the longer the Vancouver Canucks go without trading Roberto Luongo the harder it'll be to find a taker willing to make a 'hockey trade.' That will force a salary dump.
Which is another way of saying that interested parties are playing it smart. And don't be fooled by the fact that placid Canucks GM Mike Gillies went on Sportsnet Connected with Nick Kypreos on their Saturday night broadcast and said he was "absolutely" prepared to go with Luongo and Cory Schneider again next season, that simply is not to be believed.
As noted in this space before, having Luongo back after losing his number one spot to Schneider in the first round of the playoffs in April, the round where the eventual Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings ousted Vancouver in five, and after all this trade talk, would be a bigger distraction than returning Todd Bertuzzi to the fold.
Brian Burke's Brilliant Bafflegab
No, Roberto Luongo returning for the 2012-13 season would be a diversion of Titanic proportions, no one would be able to go about their business without distraction. Each start, save, everything either goalie said, would be endlessly examined. Everyone, including the dressing room janitor, would have to answer questions about Roberto Luongo ad infinitum.
They need this deal badly but potential trading partners are playing chicken and in the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs, doing it brilliantly. Here's GM Brian Burke after the junior draft in Pittsburgh talking about trading for a goalie: "We backed off, because from my perspective the prices that are being asked have to be reasonable. If you could get a goaltender that makes you better and it’s going to cost you 15 first-round picks would you do it? No.
"So somewhere between 15 first-round picks and something that makes sense, we’re not there yet. My comments are I’m not going to overpay to upgrade that position. I’m not happy with what’s being asked and from my perspective rather than strip the organization to fill one positional need, we’ll go with what we have."
That's good, but it gets better: "We are encouraged by the medical reports from James Reimer. He has a clean bill of health. He’s working out like a mad man. He’s made it very clear to us that he has no intention of giving up the net and that’s changed our thinking a little bit. This is a guy that’s going to come back hard and strong from a year that was marred by injury."
Mike Gillis: "We're in no hurry"
That's what Gillis has to contend with and it's a game that could last. Unless Chicago is in the mix, and Luongo is willing to go there, or Florida finds someone they could offer the Canucks might want (Jason Garrison doesn't count, he's about to become an UFA) then, providing Ilya Bryzgalov doesn't decide Philadelphia fans are so scary he'd rather retire than make more money than some European countries, it has to be Toronto.
But Mike Gillis can play the game, too. This is what he said following the draft: "We're in no hurry either. We're listening to a number of different situations. I haven't made my mind up yet about what direction we're going to go. I think it is more prudent to be patient and make sure we're doing the right thing for our organization."
NHL GMs playing 'chicken'
Working in favor of this deal getting done is the fact that Burke needs the playoffs to save his job and Luongo, not James Reimer, will guarantee the first postseason in Hogtown since 2004. That and the fact that Gillis needs the Stanley Cup, and the absence of Luongo, and addition of whoever trading him might bring, is a step toward getting there.
Obviously both of these GMs are good at what they do, really good, but one way or another it's a deal that is going to happen, has to happen, and so given the impasse it will likely wind up being part 'hockey trade' and part 'salary dump'. Whether it winds up more of one and less of the other is hard to predict, but either way the game of chicken will eventually end.
Let's all check back in September.