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.
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.
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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:
Sorry I lied. Important note on back-diving contracts (BDC). If player traded, then later in deal retires, original club on hook for cap hit
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) October 17, 2012
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?
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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.
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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?
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%SAEst. 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.
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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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