Canucks acquire Luongo
The big-time trade that the hockey world could see coming happened one night early: The Vancouver Canucks dealt Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld to the Florida Panthers for Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek just after 10 p.m. tonight.
At first glance, it seems like a lot to give up for the Canucks. That said, given Bertuzzi's salary, baggage, recent poor performance — and the fact he's due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season — he wasn't really worth a great deal (the phrase 'salary dump' comes to mind — although that can't be the case given the return here).
Assuming Canucks GM Dave Nonis is likely days away from signing Luongo to a large, multi-year contract, this trade also frees up a lot of salary for Vancouver and adds one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. Both Allen and Auld were due for considerable raises after breakout performances in 2005-06, and at least a portion of their elevated value is due to the fact Vancouver suffered so many injuries. Nonis will likely also try to find a new home for Dan Cloutier's $2.5-million deal.
Luongo instantly becomes the most highly touted netminder to ever play for Vancouver, a franchise that has almost always struggled to compete with below average goaltending. The city's been called a goaltending graveyard in the past — although that's generally been because the fellows in net have looked as limber as corpses.
"We believe that in Roberto we are getting a player who has represented his country at the highest level, has been nominated for the Vezina Trophy and has proven that he is among the elite goaltenders in the world. Lukas is a young, skilled, puck-moving defenceman who has a very bright future in this League."Where the deal leaves a hole for the Canucks is on defence and at right wing, where they're losing Allen, Ed Jovanovski (UFA), Bertuzzi and Anson Carter (UFA). Vancouver's defence was thin last season due to the number of injuries they had, and Krajicek — a first-round pick in 2001 — will help some, but they still need a blueliner who can quarterback the powerplay and play a 1B role alongside Mattias Ohlund. I actually really liked what I saw from Krajicek in his first season with Florida, as the young Czech had to step up and play a far bigger role when Branislav Mezei went down with a season-ending injury early in the year. He's a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenceman who was a phenomenal point producer in Canadian junior hockey.— Dave Nonis
The surprising part of this deal is the fact that Vancouver didn't have to part with any prospects, as young defensive prospect Luc Bourdon was rumoured to be among Florida GM Mike Keenan's requested players. Still, Allen and Auld both emerged as solid NHL players this past season, and are definitely going to play a big role with the Panthers next season. Auld will likely take over the starting netminding duties (a role he proved he could handle in Vancouver) and Allen will complement a Florida defence that is ever-improving with the likes of Jay Bouwmeester and Mike Van Ryn.
The ultimate question of 'who wins' this deal will fall to the play of the two centrepieces, Luongo and Bertuzzi. Given Bertuzzi's lacklustre play and declining production (his points per game average has dropped each year since his 'breakout' campaign in 2002-03), it's difficult to see how this deal can come back to bite the Canucks.
Provided Nonis can bring in another blueliner and the Sedin twins can continue to produce, Luongo's arrival could signal a changing in the balance of the Western Conference. There are an awful lot of strong goaltenders in the West at the moment, especially in the Northwest Division.
As for the two teams who had been pursuing Luongo but came up short, Los Angeles and Detroit, expect them to hotly pursue the likes of Martin Gerber when the free agency period begins July 1.
Todd Bertuzzi - $5.269-million (one year remaining from a four-year deal)
Bryan Allen (RFA) - made $940,000 last season, due for contract in $1.75-million range
Alex Auld (RFA) - made $513,000 last season, due for contract in $1.75-million range
Roberto Luongo (RFA) - made $3.2-million last season, will likely sign long-term deal for close to $6.5-million/year with Canucks
Lukas Krajicek (RFA) - made $551,ooo last season, due for contract in $1.3-million range
For next season, what my fudged numbers break down to is around a $2-million salary cap break for Vancouver (Bertuzzi's deal counts for more against the cap due to the fact previous contract years were worth larger amounts).