Roberto Luongo stated earlier this week that he was open to a trade, and a source told ESPN.com Thursday that he is mulling over a short list of teams he’ll hand the Vancouver Canucks as early as next week.
James Duthie of TSN in Canada reported via Twitter late Wednesday night that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be part of that short list.
The Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils are other possibilities, another source told ESPN.com Thursday, while stressing that Luongo hasn’t made up his mind on the list.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in dire need of goaltending but it’s not clear at this point whether Luongo would want to include them on his list or not.
The Canucks would not say much when asked about Luongo on Thursday: "This is an important decision for our organization and the players involved," Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman told ESPN.com. "It is not going to be something we discuss publicly throughout the process."
Canucks GM Mike Gillis was on Vancouver’s Team 1040 radio station Thursday and said the team hasn’t even decided yet what they’re going to do in goal.
"No, we haven’t," Gillis said on the station. "We all need to take a deep breath here."
Luongo was with the Panthers before he joined the Canucks and has retained South Florida as his offseason home.
The veteran goalie was benched after two games in favor of young goalie Cory Schneider in Vancouver’s first-round loss to Los Angeles. Luongo, who has a no-trade clause, then told the assembled Vancouver media on Tuesday that he’d be open to a trade.
Luongo, 33, signed a 12-year deal with the Canucks in 2009, worth $64 million. It runs through the 2021-22 season, although it’s front-loaded. It paid him $10 million last season, $6.716 million this season, $6.714 million per season for the next six years, then drops to $3.382 million in 2018-19, $1.618 million in 2019-20 and $1 million in each of the last two seasons. The salary-cap hit for the entirety of the contract is $5.33 million per season.
Schneider, 26, is a restricted free agent July 1 who needs a new contract that will pay him much more than the $900,000 he earned this season. For salary-cap reasons alone, the Canucks were always going to be forced to decide between goalies this summer.
I don’t believe for a second that the Leafs would top Luongo’s list, given the similar, hockey-crazed and sometimes over-the-top culture that he’d be leaving in Vancouver. But Luongo also knows he can’t be too picky given his monster contract if he really wants to leave the Canucks. Plus, in Toronto there’s goaltenders coach Francois Allaire, whom Luongo holds in high regard, and Leafs executive Dave Nonis, who traded for him in Vancouver when Nonis was the Canucks' GM.
Still, my bet would be on the two Florida teams to be his favored destinations.