Monday, June 19, 2006

The calm before the storm

Whew, things are quiet. Sundays are always notoriously slow for bloggers, what with the need to mow the lawn and head to Home Depot, but I think we may have hit a new low there yesterday.

Still, I was around, scouring for the latest tidbits of info (possibly because I don't have either a home or a lawn), and the most noteworthy of which is all of the talk about the impending trade of goaltender Roberto Luongo.

Personally, I'd be stunned if the notoriously stubborn Florida Panthers GM Mike Keenan doesn't deal Luongo, and next weekend with all 30 NHL GMs gathered at the entry draft is as good a time as he'll get. The two teams purported to have shown the most interest to this point are the Los Angeles Kings (no surprise given the fact whiz GM Dean Lombardi has signed on there) and the Detroit Red Wings.

Matt Saler at On the Wings doesn't like the idea of bringing in the only available Vezina-calibre netminder (in his prime):
The only way to get Luongo is to trade away someone significant. Sounds like a great idea, Ansar. Trade Pavel Datsyuk for Roberto Luongo and then lose him on the free agent market after next season. To me, that's the most likely scenario. Khan says the Wings have nothing to lose by such a deal but if Luongo isn't signed to a long-term deal, it absolutely will not be worth it to trade away players like Pavel Datsyuk, Jimmy Howard or any other player the Wings' have pegged their future on. They have a lot to lose and would be hinging their hopes on a prima donna goalie who has never been in the postseason. Ever.

Haven't we dealt enough with goalies that have no playoff experience? I want someone who's been there, done that, not some postseason virgin, regardless of his name.
I disagree — for a number of reasons.

For one, there's no way any team trading for Luongo is going to do so with the notion that they'll only have him for one season. A pre-negotiated long-term deal will likely accompany any deal simply for the fact that it will give Keenan something he doesn't have at the moment: leverage.

A deal where Keenan moves Luongo for only one season nets the Panthers far less than finding a situation where Luongo will sign immediately long-term, and I think the goaltender would do so with either Los Angeles or Detroit.

Should a long-term contract be considered part of the equation, suddenly Keenan's getting far more in return than he would for a pending UFA. And, frankly, that's the only way a deal makes sense for the rebuilding Panthers.

As for Luongo's relative post-season inexperience, it baffles me to think of who else the Red Wings (or any other clubs in search of a goaltender) could turn to in goal that meets that requirement. The list of plausible starting netminders who are (potentially) available isn't long or particularly impressive: Martin Gerber, Evgeni Nabokov, J-S Giguere, Cristobal Huet, Ed Belfour, Chris Mason, Dwayne Roloson.

Besides, we've seen these playoffs how little previous experience has factored into which teams have advanced. (Ilya Bryzgalov, Cam Ward and Ryan Miller all come to mind.)

Luongo's the youngest and most highly regarded of the previously mentioned bunch, regardless of his lack of playoff experience, and could prove to be the missing piece for a contending team. And given that Keenan is essentially backed into a corner in a situation where he has to deal his lone superstar, it simply makes sense to pursue Luongo.

The thing is, it's a deal that makes sense for a handful of teams and any deal for Luongo is going to include a bidding war for his services. Once we've seen what teams are willing to pay and how far Luongo can eventually carry his new team, only then will we know if the deal was a homerun or a strikeout.

Even still, I think it's the right move.

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