While the Washington Capitals fell to a dismal record of 2-6-1 on Sunday afternoon, Vancouver General Manager Mike Gillis sat high in the Verizon Center suites, taking in the action and, most assuredly, scouting the Washington Capitals.
In case you either know nothing about hockey or live under a rock, Vancouver has spent the past several months trying to offload their biggest contract in goaltender Roberto Luongo. The Caps, as you may have figured out, have had a rather large question mark between the pipes since Christobal Huet departed after the 2008 playoff run. Coincidence? Not a chance. Remember that Eastern Conference “mystery team” Gillis had discussed with the media? Well, surprise! It sure looks like Mike Gillis and George McPhee are talking about a potential trade, and getting down to brass tacks.
Braden Holtby and Michael Neuvirth each have had their flashes of brilliance over the past couple of years. But so far this season, the goalie tandem has combined for a 3.74 goals against average and an .880 save percentage. Those are not the kind of numbers that help teams win games.
Luongo, meanwhile, is sporting a 1.46 GAA along with a .944 save percentage and has yet to lose a game in regulation. Sure, Luongo has only played in five games this year, but he did also finish with a 2.41 GAA and .919 save percentage during last year’s “off” year, and a 2.11/.928 the year before that.
Washington, on the other hand, has had its struggles in net since the 2007-2008 season when longtime goaltender Olie Kolzig departed for Tampa Bay, then playoff flash Christobal Huet chased an extra year on his contract offer with Chicago. Since those days, Washington has not found its next “elite” goaltender. Trading for Luongo gives them that chance. But for how long?
At age 33, Luongo is entering year three of a twelve-year pact with the Canucks, which averages a $5.33 million cap hit per year and a no-trade clause. Of course, the thought of potentially taking on such a large contract will be met with a number of reservations, including (1) the possibility of early retirement and having to keep that cap hit on the books, (2) injury and (3) Luongo’s history of occasionally turning into a sieve in the playoffs.
Mike Gillis would probably want any combination of a young, NHL-ready forward, a goaltender, a prospect and a draft pick back. If I had to venture a guess, you’re looking at sending back either Marcus Johansson or Mathieu Perreault, Braden Holtby or Michael Neuvirth (probably Neuvi), Dmitri Orlov or Stanislav Galiev and a top-two round draft pick in exchange for the 33 year old net minder. Of course, this is purely speculative, but based on Gillis’ reported demands to other teams, the Caps likely would be looking at sending Vancouver a package similar to this one.
That said, is it worth making this move and taking the risk on Luongo? At 33, Luongo probably has three, or maybe four top-notch seasons left in him. The window will also probably be closing on this group of Capitals in about the same time frame. The Caps had an elite goalie carry them to their only finals appearance in 1998. Luongo certainly has the ability to help the Caps repeat history.
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