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Trade or tandem for Canucks?

Who will be Vancouver's No. 1 next year: Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo? Or will they work as a tandem? (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Who will be Vancouver's No. 1 next year: Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo? Or will they work as a tandem? (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Roberto Luongo's comments to the Vancouver media Tuesday gave weight to speculation he’s played his final game with the Canucks.

As his teammates cleaned out their stalls before dispersing for the summer, Luongo admitted he would waive his no-trade clause if asked to do so by management.

He said he, “didn't want to be one of those guys who is going to stand in the way of anything,” adding he wanted to put the needs of the team above his own.

For months it was assumed GM Mike Gillis would shop Cory Schneider because of Luongo's big contract and no-trade clause. That opinion began to change when Schneider replaced Luongo as the Canucks starter midway through the Kings series, sparking suggestions the veteran will become trade bait, along with potential destinations if he were shopped this summer.

Luongo said he's met with Gillis, but no decisions have been made. He also said he'll meet with his GM again in the near future.

For all the talk of Luongo or Schneider being dealt this summer, it’s also possible both will remain with the team. Prior to Luongo's comments, Schneider's agent, Mike Liut, said he wouldn't be surprised if both his client and Luongo returned next season as a tandem.

It's certainly a possibility if Gillis is unable to find any takers among a potential list of Luongo's preferred destinations.

An amnesty buyout period in the next CBA could remedy that problem, but there's no guarantee that option will be available.

In the meantime, expect plenty of ‘Bobby Lu’ conjecture in the coming weeks.

BLACKHAWKS AND PENGUINS SEARCH FOR ANSWERS

The surprising first round eliminations of recent Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh and Chicago has fans and pundits in those cities demanding significant off-season roster moves.

Entering this year's playoffs, the Penguins were the favorites to win the NHL’s championship, but their first round meltdown against the Philadelphia Flyers sparked calls for coach Dan Bylsma to be fired and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Paul Martin - who played poorly against the Flyers - to be traded, among other moves for an overhaul.

Ron Cook and Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, however, cast doubt on any of these things taking place.

Both agree it would be wrong to fire Bylsma, considering the fine job he did in keeping an injury-ravaged Penguins team in playoff contention throughout the season.

Despite Fleury's woeful performance against the Flyers (a playoff-worst 4.63 GAA and .834 SP for goalies with three or more games played), he is coming off a career-best 42-win regular season and, at only 27, is entering his prime.

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Cook believes Fleury is a goalie to build around, while Molinari believes GM Ray Shero will shop for a reliable backup.

Both agreed Martin, finishing the second season of a five-year, $25-million contract, has yet to play up to the level expected of a blueliner earning that kind of money. The combination of his salary and poor performance would make him difficult to move.

The pair also believe Shero must explore options to improve the defense corps. With more than $59.5 million tied up in 18 players for next season, however, he won't have much cap space to work with, even if the salary cap were to remain near its current level of $64.3 million.

Another area of concern are the contract statuses of Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal, who will both be eligible for UFA status in July 2013.

Shero can open contract talks with both players this July, but with both due raises (Crosby currently earns $8.7 million against the cap, Staal $4 million) it will be extremely difficult to retain the pair.

Toss in Malkin's UFA eligibility in July 2014 and one wonders if the Penguins can afford to retain this talented trio. This lead Cook, Molinari and USA Today's Kevin Allen to wonder if Staal will become trade bait this summer.

Allen suggested the possibility of swapping Staal for a premier defenseman, but given Staal’s value as a two-way center it would be a difficult decision for Shero.

In the immediate aftermath of the Chicago Blackhawks first round elimination by the Phoenix Coyotes, Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Rosenbloom explained why the club will face some hard decisions in the off-season.

Topping the list is whether they can put their trust in young goaltender Corey Crawford as their starter.

After a strong debut in 2010-11, Crawford struggled through most of this season and was unable to out-duel Coyotes goalie Mike Smith in their six-game series.

It's unlikely, however, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman will shop for a replacement starter this summer.

He signed Crawford to a three-year, $8-million deal last year and inked veteran backup Ray Emery to a one-year extension.

Factor in the lack of quality goalies available this summer, the Blackhawks limited cap space ($57.5 million committed to 20 players), uncertainty over what will be contained in the next CBA and Bowman's need to bolster depth on defense and at center and the odds are good Crawford will return as the Blackhawks starting goalie.

Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.

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