Op-Ed: Pundits wrong, Canucks will get healthy return for Roberto Luongo

Posted Apr 27, 2012 by Marcus Hondro
If the Vancouver Canucks look to trade Roberto Luongo - and it seems they will - there's a notion that not much will come back the other way. But like in industry, the market in hockey is set by supply and demand and that suggests a healthy return.
Roberto Luongo  the goaltender of the Vancouver Canucks  during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals
Roberto Luongo, the goaltender of the Vancouver Canucks, during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals
There will be goalies out there via unrestricted free agency but,other than Martin Brodeur, who'll resign with the Devils or retire, it is not a group that NHL GM's will be lining up to sign. Curtis Sanford, Alex Auld, Dwayne Roloson, Chris Mason, Scott Clemmensen and Ray Emery are typical of what is available. There is absolutely no one in the same league as the Canucks number....former number one.
Luongo just turned 33 on April 4, prime-time for an NHL goalie, and promises another 5 seasons playing at his best. And what's he done in the six he's been in Vancouver? Multiple times an all-star, the William Jennings Award, an Olympic record of 5-0 and the gold medal, 224 regular season wins and 32 playoff wins. He's a great team guy, tremendous work ethic and he's also an outstanding person who makes great contributions to the community. Wherever he goes, he'll have legions of devoted fans.
NHL teams who need goaltending
Some reports are suggesting up to 9 teams will be interested, though that seems high. But here are five teams who badly need goaltending (the greater the need, the more likely they'll enter a bidding war):
1) Toronto: desperate for the playoffs and let down by goaltending in 2011-12. Without a playoff berth Brian Burke leaves town having failed to move the franchise forward one skate-length.
2) Tampa: ditto what was said for Toronto about goalies letting them down and add they are capable of challenging for the Cup now with a goalie who can steal games like Luongo.
3) Chicago: another team capable of challenging for a Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks are seeing the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith go to waste without a top-flight goalie.
4) Philadelphia: Yes, the Flyers, if they get ousted from the playoffs because of goaltending, and let's agree that's a distinct possibility, they'll find a way to send Bryzgalov packing (to Russia, with love?) and Luongo would surely consider a market with Claude Giroux, Daniel Briere and, if he returns, Chris Pronger.
5) Pittsburgh: Time to jettison Marc-Andre Fleury, he was an abject failure these playoffs and it's another situation where great talent is being wasted. Imagine Luongo with Sid the Kid et all. Wow.
Salary Cap and Roberto Luongo
There will be others and suffice to say they'll be no shortage of interested parties. Does it make sense that a mid-level prospect and a second round pick will do it? It seems hockey pundits are concluding Luongo's salary is so high that all he can attract is something along those lines. But, again, given the number of teams bidding, the dynamics of supply and demand will help Vancouver; and the money isn't all that great a deterrent.
Luongo's salary cap hit is $5.3 million, a tidy sum, but for a goalie that routinely finishes near the top of the league in goals against average and save percentage, a guy that starts slowly but by November is stealing games, that seems market value. Further, he can still handle, and prefers, a heavy workload, meaning his team doesn't have to spend a kings ransom on a back-up. And the first year saw him earn $10 million in take home pay, from here on he never actually gets more than $6.7 million (but, again, only the 5.3 salary cap hit).
How to trade Luongo in NHL steps
This is how the dynamic will work to drive up offers: let's say Toronto offers Cody Franson and a fifth rounder. Chicago tops that with Viktor Stalberg and a third rounder. If those clubs had the cap room, would you not say Luongo was worth either of those deals? He very much is, and more.
So imagine Pittsburgh really feels the Fleury days are over and a bona-fide star goalie would give them the best chance at another Cup. To beat Chicago's offer, whose offer beat Toronto's offer, Pittsburgh offers up Jordan Staal. Maybe that is over the top, but you get the drift - that's how it will build. And would Jordan Staal, a talented and young player, but a center on a team with Crosby and Evengi Malkin, both centers, be that much of a stretch for Luongo?
The end result of all of this, whichever teams are involved, will be that, because of their need and the law of supply and demand, Vancouver gets a lot more than observers think they will. They will also get more because, when you get down to it, Roberto Luongo is a heck of a goalie.