Since the Penguins-Capitals game was on national TV on Sunday afternoon, the whole country got to see that Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis and assistant GM Lawrence Gilman were in attendance at the Verizon Center. And given that teams don’t play any cross-conference games in this abbreviated NHL season, it’s safe to say they weren’t just there checking out the competition.
The rumors of the Canucks shipping out goaltender Roberto Luongo have started up so many times that most hockey fans have long since gotten tired of following them, but maybe there’s something to them this time. Conveniently, the Vancouver brass got to see Braden Holtby allow a pair of soft second period goals, so if they needed any help convincing the Caps of the need for an upgrade in net, they got it.
Washington fans will counter by saying that it’s not like general manager George McPhee to make a huge splash in the trade market, and they’d be right. Yet the circumstances are different in a season that is already threatening to get away from the Caps. McPhee might have no choice but to go outside of his comfort zone before it’s too late.
Luongo wouldn’t cure all that ails the Capitals, but he’d be a good start. The team would have an unquestioned number one goaltender instead of the rotation it has now, and despite Luongo’s well publicized struggles the last two years in Vancouver, he’s an accomplished guy who could easily thrive with a change of scenery.
I have no idea what the Canucks would ask for in return, though the Capitals seem to have the pieces to make a deal. You’d have to think either Holtby or Michal Neuvirth would head west to back up Cory Schneider (unless, as the NBC crew speculated, the Canucks are actually looking to move Schneider instead, which is an entirely separate topic). There are young players like Marcus Johansson (who also might benefit from going elsewhere, by the looks of it) and Dmitry Orlov, veterans like Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer and prospects like Filip Forsberg who would all make attractive trade assets.
The big obstacle to a Luongo trade prior to the lockout was his enormous salary. That’s been mitigated somewhat by the new CBA, as the Canucks could agree to eat some of his contract. It all depends on how badly they want to move him and what they think they could gain in return.
It’s a risk on the Capitals’ part for sure, because they could end up shipping out players they may miss later with no guarantee that Luongo would save this season. The alternative is to do nothing and languish at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
The time to shake things up is right now, before it’s too late. It looks like there’s at least a dialogue going, so we’ll just have to wait and see if it turns into a deal.
Let the speculation continue.