The Toronto Maple Leafs firing of GM Brian Burke on Wednesday dominated NHL headlines and even overshadowed the announcement the Board of Governors had unanimously approved the new collective bargaining agreement.
Most pundits tried to determine the reasons behind Burke's firing, but some also wondered about the impact it would have on the Leafs’ pursuit of Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Since last summer, when word emerged the Canucks would entertain offers on Luongo, the Maple Leafs have been consistently linked to the 33-year-old netminder.
Burke's rumored reluctance to make a move for Luongo was suggested by some to be at the center of his dismissal, while the rest of the Leafs front office were apparently keen to acquire him.
That included former assistant GM Dave Nonis, who took over the reins as full-time GM. Nonis was GM of the Canucks in 2006 when they acquired Luongo from Florida.
CBC's Tim Wharnsby claimed Burke actually wanted to acquire Luongo, but it was unknown if he made a pitch that satisfied Canucks GM Mike Gillis, whom Burke clashed with in the past.
Nonis and Luongo have maintained a high level of personal respect toward each other, which fuelled speculation the new Leafs GM will do everything in his power to bring the goalie to Toronto. It also helped that Nonis, unlike his predecessor, has a good relationship with Gillis.
It's believed Nonis would offer a package of centers Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri, along with either a second round draft pick or a prospect for Luongo.
Though the Maple Leafs appear to be the front-runners, they may also face a bidding war.
Luongo would love to return to the Panthers, as he has maintained his off-season residence in South Florida. They were reportedly interested in late-June, but talks went cold after the Canucks insisted a top prospect be included as part of a return.
The Chicago Blackhawks were also rumored as a destination, but it appears they will stick with their tandem of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery.
Another supposedly interested party were the Edmonton Oilers, who are loaded with promising youth and in need of a goaltending upgrade.
Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk performed very well for Canada at last month's Spengler Cup tournament in Davos, Switzerland. If he can carry that performance into this season, the Oilers won't need to pursue an expensive (in salary and trade return) goalie like Luongo.
The Philadelphia Flyers have become an intriguing late addition to the Luongo sweepstakes. On Wednesday, TVA's Enricco Ciccone, TSN's James Duthie and the Denver Post's Adrian Dater reported Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was very interested in Luongo.
Ilya Bryzgalov is currently the Flyers' starting goalie and will enter the second year of a nine-year, $51 million contract. According to Dater, Holmgren would buy out Bryzgalov “next year” if he landed Luongo.
Holmgren quickly denied the rumors, telling the Philadelphia Daily News they had “no basis or merit.”
That didn't silence Dater, who reminded everyone of Holmgren's denials two years ago when center Jeff Carter was rumored to be on the trade block. The Flyers GM subsequently dealt Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Dater maintained the Flyers were “very interested” in Luongo and suggested the Canucks would ask for a defenseman or young player - Nicklas Grossmann or Brayden Schenn - as part of the return.
The Flyers carry considerable depth in young forwards who may entice the Canucks, but are thin on the blueline and wouldn't be keen to move Grossmann. They also have more than $67.4 million invested in 24 players, though they could free up cap space by shipping a roster player or two to Vancouver as part of a return for Luongo. Chris Pronger (concussion) is likely to remain on the long-term injury reserve, providing an additional $4.9 million in cap relief.
The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, have more than $63.5 million invested in this season's payroll, which would allow them to comfortably absorb Luongo's $5.3 million salary.
Another factor in the Leafs’ favor is that they have two young goaltenders in James Reimer and Ben Scrivens. Either one could fill the backup spot on the Canucks roster behind starter Cory Schneider.
The Canucks cannot trade Luongo until the new NHL CBA is officially ratified this weekend. Once that's completed, it'll be interesting to see how long it takes them to move him, and where.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 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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