Should the Leafs trade Bozak, Frattin, Gardiner and a 1st for Luongo?

Well, here we go. Roberto Luongo trade speculation has heated up again this week. I wrote a sarcastic post about James Reimer at UBC on Wednesday, but apparently this got people to actually start talking Luongo trade.

Damien Cox, who fills a role analogous to the middle segment of the human centipede, was able to “speculate” this morning enough to drop a fun tidbit: the Vancouver Canucks wanted Tyler Bozak, Matt Frattin, Jake Gardiner and a first round pick for Luongo at the draft.

Well, it’s not really “speculation” when you come right out and say it:

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At the draft, reports indicated Vancouver asked for centre Tyler Bozak, defenceman Jake Gardiner, a first round pick and winger Matt Frattin in exchange for the 33-year-old Luongo. The Leafs had no interest in paying that kind of price, largely because there is no significant market for the services of the veteran goaltender.

That actually isn’t that bad a deal for the Leafs. Consider that Roberto Luongo, even at 33, is still one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. The worry I’ve had all along with Luongo is that he’ll play deeper into his contract than goaltenders normally are effective.

However the NHL thinks some of that risk ought to be transferred to the Vancouver Canucks. In the CBA proposal they posted online this week, the NHL suggested they wanted to “address the recent phenomenon of long-term, front-loaded, “back-diving” Player contracts”.

Then this tweet came out from Bob McKenzie:

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What this does is show the world that, yes, the NHL is interested in punishing teams like the Canucks for signing cap-circumventing deals. Should that provision be included in the new CBA, and I don’t have too much reason to believe that the NHL would offer concessions on their contract rules (or that the NHLPA would oppose them) this means that the bulk of the risk on Luongo’s contract lies with Vancouver.

See why you don’t overpay for goalies?

Let’s take this a step further. A couple of weeks ago, it wouldn’t be worth it to the Leafs to give up four assets for a bad contract. If the NHL ends the lockout anytime soon, has the game changed?

I can’t for the life of me figure why the Canucks would want Tyler Bozak or Matt Frattin. Frattin is a 24-year old winger who has just 57 NHL games to his credit and 8 goals to his name. It would be different if he were shown to be an elite two-way guy like Daniel Winnik but that just isn’t the case. Frattin doesn’t have a whole lot of value.

Tyler Bozak, as well. There’s no way the Leafs finish this season with Bozak as the No. 1 centreman with the James van Riemsdyk experiment set to begin, and two superior centremen being available in Mikhail Grabovski and Nazem Kadri. While Bozak and Frattin were both good projects to take on since they cost the Leafs nothing, neither really panned out into anything you can prove was that much replacement level.


Since Bozak and Frattin act as replacements in the lineup, the real assets you’re giving up here are Jake Gardiner and a first round pick. So what’s Luongo worth?

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Well, let’s look at this. In the last three seasons, Roberto Luongo’s save percentage at even strength has been worth .929. In the last three years, according to Behind the Net, the Leafs’ overall save percentage has been .906, .916 and .906. Even if we stack Luongo up against Reimer’s career average of .918, there’s still significant improvement to be offered by Roberto Luongo:

  Est. EV SV% SA Est. GA
Luongo 0.929 1400 99
Reimer 0.918 1400 115

That’s a difference of 16 goals over a full season worth of shots. Hockey Prospectus’ GVT, or goals versus threshold, rated Gardiner at 7.7 GVT last season, in a good offensive season. GVT isn’t as good at capturing the defensive aspect of the game just yet, and if we’re confident that Gardiner’s 8.9% shooting percentage will dip towards more sustainable numbers for a defenceman, or his team-leading 101.1% PDO will normalize, I don’t think we can expect Gardiner to hit 16 goals worth of value over the next three seasons.

It’s not the future, but it’s this next seasons where the Leafs really need to showcase some improvement. How long is Phil Kessel going to want to stay in Toronto for? How many more real good seasons do you have in long-term investments Mikhail Grabovski and Dion Phaneuf? What was the point of giving up two first-rounders for Kessel if you’re going to sit on your hands for Kessel’s whole five-year deal?

I think those are questions that need to be answered at some point.

So then you get to the first round pick. The gamble there is that Luongo has enough more value in him than Gardiner to bring the Leafs out of a lottery draft position, because if, with Luongo, with van Riemsdyk and a healthy forward group, the team still can’t make the playoffs, well, you’re going into your next re-build cycle absolutely bare.

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Of course, that’s the “safe” thinking. You don’t want to see a bold move being made for the sake of a bold move being made, but if the NHL’s contracts rules change and the Canucks are still on the hook for retirement years, it becomes all that much easier to say yes.


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      • It’s not about who suggested it, it’s that you are wholeheartedly writing an article in support of this idea.
        Not to mention that the logic you employ of Luongo having more value than Gardiner in the short term is a terrible position to argue from. For one thing the difference between the two players is that one will get better over that period while the other will certainly see his numbers slip.
        Secondly, it’s giving up Gardiner’s real quality years to try and compete with an aging goalie with a weakly constructed team right now. Luongo is no guarantee to the Leafs making the playoffs, and certainly isn’t going to be enough to take us anywhere in them.
        Trading for Luongo is a desperate knee-jerk move made with incredibly rose coloured glasses on the odds that Luongo will play up to expectations.
        Trading away one of their most useful centres-especially when the team has a glaring weakness at this position. As well as a player like Frattin who is starting to emerge, and is certainly a valuable chip to be used in a better deal for the Leafs if one didn’t see his immediate value. Add to that a future blue line stud and PP quarterback as well as a likely lottery pick and I just can’t see how you think this is worth it.
        The first round pick alone coming up high in the first round would most certainly create a whole “Tyler Seguin vs. Phil Kessel” type media circus (and we know how well Boobby Lu handles those now don’t we?) of epic proportions. It is these types of issues, and the subsequent media attention they garner that assist in making Toronto such an unattractive market for players to come to already. Not to mention how distracting and demoralizing it is for the players in the room.
        And with pretty much the entire team being through with their contracts in two years, there is no real “window” to compete with Luongo anyway.
        There are so many better uses for the pieces on the Leafs side of this trade, and a little patience is likely to bring us a far better fit on the other side.
        Generally I quite enjoy your site and often agree with the points you make, but you can be sure this isn’t true in this case.

  • I would laugh in Gillis’ face and watch him eat $10M worth of cap space in goal while the cap drops to $62M if he asked for anything close to that.

    It’s all good and swell to look at the stats on Luongo and Reimer and Gardiner and say “the Leafs are better if they do this and Frattin’s a replacement level scrub” but the fact is, Luongo has nowhere to go but down (and his contract is pricey) while Gardiner, Reimer, and Frattin all have room to grow.

    It’s no guarantee they will of course but there’s a lot more opportunity for efficient or better deals there than what we can expect from Luongo on a go-forward basis.

    Even if you took the 1st out of that offer, I would still feel that trade is completely indefensible from a Leafs’ perspective and it’s exactly the kind of trade that has put this franchise in the position that it’s in today.

    • Well, the alternate view is the rest of the league laughs in Burke’s face as his team finishes yet again out of the playoffs, largely due to below average goaltending.

      What are the other solid options out there to improve the goaltending?

  • I’d do it. Or at least seriously consider it. Depends if Burke thinks the Leafs are a lottery team with Luongo and van Riemsdyk added. Really I just look at the lineup with/without Gardiner and Luongo and the one with Luongo is better. Gardiner has achieved God status in Toronto in one season for some reason. I like him, but I’m not viewing him as untouchable. I dunno, I just really want a goalie that doesn’t suck

  • @Ryan

    No, but when they had an elite goalie, they did trade a bunch of assets for Owen Nolan (a player who was very good but getting close to decline-age).

    This asking price given all the factors associated with Luongo is actually insane and I’m shocked that people who are typically very reasonable in their assessments and valuations of players are doing anything other than laughing derisively at Mike Gillis for having the gall to ask, frankly.

  • When you say if this trade doesn’t work out, the Leafs would enter their next rebuilding cycle bare, that’s also what happened w/r/t Kessel: Burke gambled he’d be enough to pull them out of the cellar and lost.

    And that’s why this move worries me: the Leafs have pulled this kind of trade before and I think Burke would do it again.

  • Erm, no. I don’t believe that would be a good trade for the Leafs at all. I don’t think the Leafs have all the pieces necessary to carry them to the first round of the playoffs (and beyond) if they get an aging Luongo in net. Maybe in a few years from now, but Luongo would have aged quite a bit by then(unless he goes Dominik Hasek in his later years).

  • Typical Leafs fan comments.

    To get an elite goalie, you need to give something up. As Cam is writing, it really isn’t a ton. Goalies like Lou do not come on the market often. I don’t think that trade is a bad one for either team.

    For my money, the leafs are not close to being a playoff team as is. If playoffs are not your goal (not a typical leaf philosophy of win now no matter what) then perhaps sitting on prospects and picks is a better idea.

  • asdf

    1. If I were Mike Gillis and I really could have this kind of go-for-the-stars type of offer I make to any team for Luongo, I would probably take something involving Bjugstad over this package. At least Bjugstad has the potential to be a franchise player like Luongo. None of these guys do. I think that was partly what Cam was trying to say.

    2. How will people react if the Leafs fail to make the playoffs by a few points? Do people start suddenly start remembering the bad goals Reimer let in over the course of the season?

    3. Because Canucks chose Schneider over Luongo, it doesn’t mean Luongo all of sudden lost his elite skills as a goaltender. Do people not remember crazy saves Luongo had in the two game against the Leafs just last season?

    4. Leafs are giving up A LOT of assets. And I don’t think these are the pieces that Canucks are looking for quite frankly. Bad trade for both teams because it doesn’t make any sense which is why it’s probably just a rumor.