When we first heard about the Roberto Luongo trade saga during the playoffs the feeling was that he would be moved for spare parts to get Vancouver cap relief and allow them to add pieces to the team while starting Cory Schneider and Eddie Lack in net.
Under those assumptions a deal that's basically cheap garbage (cap space) from Toronto for Roberto Luongo made a ton of sense. Luongo's been an elite goaltender for a long time, Vancouver frees up about $4M to add something and everyone's happy.
Then in Damien Cox's piece today I read this:
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.
So talks have continued on and off, with Bozak as the centrepiece.
That's obvious. If Brian Burke had moved a presumptive lottery pick and Jake Gardiner for a 33 year old goalie in a season facing a lockout it'd be time for all of us to find a new hobby.
Let's talk about what Roberto Luongo is and what he can be. Luongo has played 727 NHL games from 1999 to now. In the past five years he's never played less than 54 games in a season but averages closer to 60. His save percentage over the past five years is the same as his career average: 0.919.
I ran a comp, with an obvious caveat: with league save percentage on the rise I set the bar a little lower than I'd have liked to try and grab some older players. There aren't that many goaltenders.
Here's the list of those goalies and how many times they performed that feat:
With the conventional wisdom being that Luongo wants to play six more years it's hard to say that he'd play six more years at a .919 SV%. Goalies who have performed at this level late in their careers more than twice are Tim Thomas, Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek.
Thomas is a weird case but the rest of those guys are rightful Hall of Famers (either already or soon), and it's a bad gamble to look at a player and deal for him assuming that he'll perform like one of the all time greats. This makes sense right? We shouldn't gamble that Luongo will be 100% of his usual self forever as he ages.
My gut is that Luongo slots in below Belfour but near Kiprusoff and CuJo. Predicting around three years on this list for Luongo feels right.
We should also consider the makeup of the Leafs. In my mind the Leafs' hope revolves around Morgan Rielly, Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner and a bottom three filled out with Matt Finn, Stuart Percy, Jesse Blacker, etc. That group won't be ready to shine for another 3+ years, which is when Luongo will be contemplating leaving.
Luongo and a .920 SV% might drag this Leafs team to 8th in the East, but I don't think they win a playoff round. I also don't think this is an important long term improvement. If Luongo was younger, if we knew we could get four great seasons out of him then maybe the team could be a contender with him here.
There are two things the Leafs should not pay for Luongo under any circumstances: Toronto's 2013 1st round pick and young talent (Gardiner, Kadri, Rielly, etc.). The Leafs, as constructed, aren't a great team and will likely be drafting early in 2013. I agree with people who say you shouldn't worry about getting better at the expense of your first round draft pick but for me that has to hinge around genuine long term improvement.
Example: if the Leafs were getting a sure fire young stud goaltender I'd consider putting the first in play, but for a 33 year old I don't think it works.
Ditto to young talent. Jake Gardiner should hopefully contribute value to the Leafs for a lot longer than three or four years. Toronto doesn't have enough talent to give up young potential for a few years of an old goaltender.
I'd offer Vancouver Tyler Bozak, Cody Franson and our 2nd round pick in 2013. There's some value there for Vancouver. It's not a king's ransom but I don't think the Leafs should be moving important pieces to bring in a 33 year old. If that's not enough I'm more than happy to not have Luongo.
Leafs fans, what are you willing to pay for Luongo? Let us know in the comments.