Friday, June 23, 2006

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."
— Dave Nonis
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.

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.

Salary breakdown:
Florida Panthers
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

Vancouver Canucks
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).



At 11:15 p.m., June 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's a hell of a trade for the Canucks.
Goalies like Luongo don't come around very often and imo, Bertuzzi is the most overrated player in hockey not named Bryan McCabe.

Krajicek will likely be about as good as Allen eventually. Auld is solid, but nowhere close to Luongo's class.

At 12:45 a.m., June 24, 2006, Blogger Joe Pelletier said...

Wow. Looks like Dave Nonis took a page from his mentor Brian Burke's playbook and looked to steal the show on draft day, especially in his own backyard.

As a Canucks fan, I'm sad to see Auld and Allen go, but losing Bertuzzi is addition by subtraction. That being said, he'll likely have a big year in Florida.

I don't know much about Krajicek, but Luongo of course is huge news. Pretty risky move given his own contract status.

Needless to say the Canucks have majorly changed their appearance. This almost certainly means Cloutier is gone too, and it's sounding more and more like Jovo is leaving. Bertuzzi's absence on RW makes Anson Carter's resigning even more imperative.

Joe Pelletier

At 2:32 p.m., June 24, 2006, Anonymous nick said...

From a Vancouver fan's perspective, I think this trade has definitely worked out in our favour, assuming we can sign Luongo to a long-term deal at reasonable (low $6m/yr) price for a goaltender of his caliber.

Bertuzzi will definitely be missed as a bruising, scoring presence up-front, but he obviously needed a change of scenery, and this gives Alain Vigneault a clean slate to work with in the fall.

Allen was a solid D-man, reminiscent of Dana Murzyn in the early-90s (...), but has little scoring potential and really does look like a pylon out there most of the time. I think the Vancouver media was a lot higher on him than his skill level ever merited.

Auld is a fan favourite and a big loss, but considering the trade-up to Luongo, I think Vancouver fans will get over it. :)

Krajicek also looks like an excellent addition. My feeling is that we're a little lighter on the front end now than we are on defense, with Bourdon signed and coming in the fall, and the possibility of re-signing Jovo.

All of this comes down to Nonis re-signing Luongo - if he can pull it off, Canucks fans will definitely have something to look forward to in the fall. If he can't, well, he's gained a lot of trade value in comparison to Bertuzzi - which could mean flipping Luongo elsewhere for major talent in return.

On the whole, I'm definitely a happy camper today. :)

At 5:23 p.m., June 24, 2006, Blogger Jim Dwyer said...

From other comments...

"..hell of a trade for the Canucks..."

"...I'm a happy camper.."

Ditto on both counts because I'm from Boston, and Luongo seems to always stand on his head against the Bruins. Good riddance.

At 5:26 p.m., June 24, 2006, Anonymous Zanstorm said...

yeah I'm happier too. This squashes all those who were doubting Nonis. He is a Burke protige.
I hope the Nucks sign Carter now. And I hope they acquire a good winger to replace Bert and spark that top line.


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