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Luongo rumors go lukewarm

Roberto Luongo didn't start Game 1 for the Canucks, but he made his way into the game and then started Game 2. (Getty Images)

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Roberto Luongo didn't start Game 1 for the Canucks, but he made his way into the game and then started Game 2. (Getty Images)

The pre-season rumors linking Vancouver Canucks goaltender Robert Luongo to the Toronto Maple Leafs are wilting in the heat of regular season reality.

It was speculated the two clubs had a deal in place to ship Luongo to Toronto shortly after the ink was dry on the new collective bargaining agreement. The Canucks’ asking price was said to be centers Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and a second round draft pick.

Last Friday, however, Vancouver Sun columnist Iain MacIntyre noted the Leafs trading away center Matthew Lombardi to Phoenix and demoting center Tim Connolly meant Bozak and Kadri weren’t available.

Maple Leafs GM Nonis told ESPN.com late last week he wouldn’t trade away young players for older ones. After moving Lombardi and Connolly, Nonis won’t weaken his depth at center by including Kadri and/or Bozak in an early-season trade, even for Luongo.

Meanwhile, Canucks GM Mike Gillis is facing pressure from Vancouver fans and pundits to move Luongo to improve the club’s depth, especially with second-line center Ryan Kesler and left winger David Booth sidelined by injuries.

Gillis’s critics are second-guessing him for not moving Luongo prior to the lockout, accusing him of setting too high a price for the netminder.

He responded by blaming “a team that was extremely interested in acquiring Roberto” using “every means possible” – including the Toronto media – to force him into making a deal he didn’t feel was right.

It’s not difficult to guess what team Gillis was referring to, though it’s unknown if he was talking about its current GM or its former one.

Gillis has claimed he’s spoken with several teams regarding Luongo. The Ottawa Sun listed the Leafs, Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks as potential destinations for the 33-year-old goalie.

It’s clear Gillis will wait for Luongo’s market value to improve, ignoring the calls from fans and pundits to make a move as soon as possible. Still, if the Canucks find their playoff hopes in jeopardy later in the season, his hand could be forced.

Entering this week, there’s no progress to report on the respective contract negotiations of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, Dallas Stars center Jamie Benn and Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly.

Elliotte Friedman addressed Subban’s situation during the Hot Stove intermission segment on Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada telecast, repeating Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s claim the young blueliner won’t be traded.

Friedman pointed out Subban is represented by the same agency which handled the lengthy contract talks of L.A. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty during the summer of 2011, suggesting Subban and the Habs could face a long standoff.

Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reported the Benn camp would prefer a shorter contract, perhaps a three-year deal taking him up to age 26, hoping to “hit a home run on his next deal.”

Stars management would reportedly prefer a two-, three-, five- or six-year deal, but not a four-year one, as that takes Benn up to his eligibility age for unrestricted free agency.

Heika also reports the two sides cannot agree on the dollars, as the Stars don’t wish to pay a premium price for a restricted free agent. He believes the going rate for a comparable player is between $3.75 and $5 million per season, while those on longer-term deals can land up to $6.8 million per.

The Stars have also indicated they’ll match any offer sheet for Benn.

O’Reilly’s standoff with the Avs is reportedly over salary, as he’s believed to be seeking $5 million per season while the club is countering with $3.5 million per.

Management claimed it had no intention of trading O’Reilly, but Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla isn’t so sure, pointing out Chris Drury and Claude Lemieux were shipped out after crossing team executive Pierre Lacroix.

Lacroix was the Avs GM back when Drury and Lemieux were traded away. He’s now team president, so it remains to be seen how much influence he has over current contract talks.

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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