Now that the NHL lockout is over, Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo is back on the trade block. Following the Canucks shocking first-round exit in 2012 against the eventual Stanley Cup champions Los Angeles Kings, Luongo said he would waive his no-trade-clause. In other words, he requested a trade. He has been the subject of many hot trade rumors. With that in mind, here are the five teams I think will most likely make a big move for him.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets were the worst team in the league in 2012. Steve Mason has been a huge disappointment ever since his 2009 Calder Trophy winning season. They are more desperate than any other team in the league for a goalie. Roberto Luongo is that goalie they want. This trade should happen. This trade probably would happen. Blue Jackets fans should be excited right? Not so fast people! Why would a goalie of Luongo’s caliber want to jeopardize his chance at a Stanley Cup title by joining a team entering a long, slow rebuilding process? Considering the fact Columbus traded away their lone superstar, Rick Nash, to the Rangers in the summer, this team has no talent to intrigue Luongo. I doubt this is Luongo’s new team, but as sports prove, anything can happen.
4. Chicago Blackhawks
How ironic would this be? The Canucks most hated team, the Blackhawks, would do both teams a huge favor here. Chicago fans have been calling for Corey Crawford’s head, asking for a new goalie. The Blackhawks were prepared to make a heavy push for Martin Brodeur, but he re-upped with New Jersey. The Blackhawks would solve their goaltending issues, and take away this headache contract from the Canucks. Chicago has the depth at forward and a pool full of talented prospects, but even though this is a good fit, I don’t see this happening. Why would Luongo want to go to a city where the fans have mocked him all these years? The fan base would have a hard time accepting him. I doubt this trade happens, because neither team would be willing to help out their respective rivals. Also, Chicago has so much money tied up to stars such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook. Again, anything can happen, and Luongo would go to a contender, but this trade is unlikely to happen
3. Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers thought they had an elite goalie when they signed Nikolai Khabibulin to a four-year, $15 million dollar contract in 2009. The result? An overpaid, washed up, putrid goaltender. Khabibulin has been battled through injuries, consistency, and has had troubles off the ice. Most recently having to serve 30 days in jail for DUI. The Edmonton Oilers have since turned to Devan Dubnyk, the former first round pick. Dubnyk’s maturity and growth have taken longer than expected, but showed signs of promise last season, posting a 20-20-3 record with a .914 save percentage. However, Roberto Luongo would be a terrific fit for the Oilers. The team is in dire need of a veteran leader, and Luongo can provide that. He also brings over a decade of NHL experience—something this team lacks. The Oilers also have one of the worst defensive units in the league—and Luongo is good enough to make up for a ton of those problems. The Oilers also have the deepest farm system in hockey, and can easily afford to part with a few of those to fix their goaltending situation long term.
2. Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers would be smart to welcome a reunion with Luongo. Everyone is aware that his best years were with the Florida Panthers. He just never had enough talent in front of him to compete for the postseason. The Panthers finished third in the Eastern Conference last season, and were a goal away from moving on to Round 2. That was with the inconsistent tandem of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen. Imagine how much better this team would be with Luongo on their team. Much like the Oilers, the Panthers have a great farm system that can make the trade happen. The Panthers also have plenty of cap space to pull it off. The biggest reason this trade makes sense? Luongo would feel much less pressure in a state that isn’t crazy hockey. Luongo is willing to follow LeBron and take his talents to South Beach (see what I did there?). However, the Panthers appear concerned about taking on such a contract, while claiming they are waiting for young goaltender Jacob Markstrom to succeed Theodore. This trade makes so much sense, but the Panthers don’t seem to agree with me.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
Forget Brian Burke’s hatred towards Mike Gillis. This is the trade he needs to make in order to keep his job safe. The Maple Leafs have some of hockey’s most passionate fans, but also some of the most impatient. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2004. They have had no success finding a quality goaltender since. While Burke strongly opposes heavy, front-loaded contracts, this trade would make the Leafs playoff contenders. If the Leafs find themselves watching the playoffs from the couch again, then Burke will be shown the door. Luongo may find it difficult playing in another hockey crazy market—but at this point Leafs Nation would do anything to see the postseason again. Luongo can get them there. Brian Burke knows more than anyone else that they need a good goalie—Luongo fits that bill. If Luongo is a disaster in his first season, then there is always that amnesty buy out clause. Toronto also has many players that could be used for trade bait, such as Tyler Bozak. Luongo would go from a goat in Vancouver to a hero in Toronto if he led them to the playoffs. This trade has to happen—I know it, we know it, Luongo knows it, and Brian Burke knows it.