Roberto Luongo?

If the Edmonton Oilers aren’t thrilled with Devan Dubnyk’s performance as a starting goaltender, does it make sense for the club to pursue Vancouver Canucks starter Roberto Luongo?

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The Pros

Roberto Luongo is an excellent goaltender. Over both the last three and the last five seasons he has averaged a 0.930 even-strength save percentage, which represents elite level performance – it’s better than any other Canadian goaltender, and slightly better than Henrik Lundqvist (the gold standard) over the last five years, slightly worse over the last three. Luongo is a top-flight starting goalie.

Because of his contract, the trade cost for Roberto Luongo would likely be low. With the salary cap falling, and the potential for multiple starting-calibre goalies on the market this year (Ryan Miller, Mike Smith, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc.), Vancouver will be in quite a bind if they cannot move Luongo. It’s impossible to know, but this feels like a situation where a package centered around Ales Hemsky might get the job done – the cap hits are comparable, and while Hemsky isn’t a perfect player he would add some badly needed secondary offensive support behind the Sedin line.

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Moving Hemsky for Luongo would also free the Oilers up to use Devan Dubnyk as a trade chip. Dubnyk is an average-ish NHL starter on an affordable deal ($3.5 million for one more season); to the right team he would likely have more value than Hemsky. A deal like this would allow the Oilers to upgrade their goaltender while upgrading their principle trade chip at the same time.

In the short-term, this hypothetical scenario seems both plausible and favourable to the Oilers. But what about the long-term?

The Cons

Firstly: Luongo has a no-trade clause. He has emphasized time and again that his chief goal is simply to be a starter, so maybe he waives it because he’s low on options and doesn’t want to get stuck fighting with Cory Schneider for playing time again. On the other hand, he’s spent most of his career in warmer places; it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that he would refuse to go to Edmonton.

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Luongo just turned 34 years old; he’s in the wrong end of his career and his performance is going to decline. He might start slowing down in two years, or it might take five, but at some point in that window he will likely need to be replaced.

The contract: Luongo is signed for the next nine seasons. For the sake of argument, let’s assume he retires as soon as the dollars start dipping, in the summer of 2018 (the far end of the two-to-five year window mentioned in the last paragraph). If that happened, any cap benefit accrued would count against the clubs that gained it for the remaining four years of his contract. The “cap benefit” is the difference between dollars paid and cap hit in those seasons, with that benefit divided equally over the remaining years. In this scenario, both the Oilers and Canucks would be on the hook for penalties over the four seasons following Luongo’s retirement, as shown here:

“Benefit” is calculated simply as dollars paid minus cap hit; with a 2018 retirement the Oilers would be staring at a $1.73 million cap hit penalty from 2018-19 until 2021-22. That’s a non-trivial penalty, but with the salary cap likely to be significantly higher by then, it’s also one the Oilers could likely afford to sustain.

The Verdict

In the long-term, the chief fear is that Luongo’s performance falls off a cliff two years from now and that he stubbornly refuses to retire because he’s still getting paid. If he continues to play well, he has a modest cap hit and the penalty for his eventual retirement is survivable. If he falls apart two years from now and retires, the Oilers will need a new starter but they’ll have gained a small cap benefit that will turn into a tiny cap penalty over the following seven years (less than $400,000 per season). But, if he falls apart and then refuses to retire, the Oilers would be in serious trouble.

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How great a risk is it? Really it depends on the individual. Here’s a (subjective) look at some of the oldest goaltenders in recent memory, and when their performance slipped:

Sometimes it’s a straight line drop off a cliff (Dominik Hasek), sometimes it’s a few years of ups and downs with a generally decreasing performance (Martin Brodeur) and sometimes the goalie retires at the top of his game (Patrick Roy). I’d guess that Luongo probably has three to four more years as an above-average NHL starter left in him, and then another year or two where he can still play but isn’t what he was.


Don’t forget that it’s not too late to play StreakCred – the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now it’s only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.

Recently around the Nation Network

Over at NHLNumbers, Rex Libris asks Who Are The Edmonton Oilers Best Scouts? Here’s how he describes his process:

I am looking at the Oilers’ prospects taken between 2008 and 2012, the Stu MacGregor era, grouping them according to region drafted, and then grading them based on a variety of rankings including Lowetide’s top 20s, Hockey’s Future, Corey Pronman at Hockey Prospectus and giving weight to LT’s oft-cited preference for players with a “wide range of skills”. In some cases players who have made the jump to the AHL/ECHL may be ranked ahead of those still playing junior and those who have signed professional deals are ahead of those still unsigned.

 Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

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  • Hallisimo

    For the love of god will people please stop trying to trade PRV, the guy has size, top end speed and is just starting to come into his own. He should be considered one of the untouchables unless we absolutely steal someone in a trade. There is a reason he is the one player everyone wants instead of samwise or no heart hemsky. Prv is on the right path to become that power forward we have been trying to get, if we trade him now in 2-3 years we will all be wishing he was a part of this young core.

  • Last year I would of done Hotcoff for Luongo. We don’t want that albatros. Its a bad contract you stay far away from. Can we have no more Luongo articals please. And why would we help Vancouver and then givre a useful player???

  • #ThereGoesTheOilers

    Living in BC, I relish how sweet such a trade would be. For all his criticisms, Luongo is a damn fine goaltender. I would like nothing more than to point out to my neighbours how Gillis threw one of their best players under the bus just in time for us to snatch him up. Thank you for this amusing debacle Vancouver. We’ll get the last laugh and we’ll share it with ol Lubongo.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    Oh man, DSF! I was just lightly keeping up on your posts and thought that the funny “I’M RIGHT NO MATTER WHAT!!!” posts were ending. I was fearing a more “here’s my opinion, but your opinion is ok too” DSF was going to emerge. Or maybe a “my opinion doesn’t matter because I have no influence on NHL GMs” DSF was going to haunt us. I almost had to read through old articles to catch some of your hiliarious routine. I’m glad that you haven’t actually changed. Who would keep us all entertained with these awful articles that ON writers put up? (ON writers, I really actually like the articles).

    Keep the jokes coming!!!

    I love you, man! *HUG*

  • DSF

    People tend to forget that Luongo’s contract has two out clauses built into it.

    “The first comes five years into the extension. If Luongo isn’t pleased with where the team is at, or where it’s heading, he can then trigger a trade. The out clause is timed for what should be an organizational crossroads — one year after the Sedins’ current long-term deal is up. The Canucks have agreed to accommodate the request by moving Luongo at that point.”

    “Two years later, after the contract extension’s seventh year, the Canucks have a reciprocal clause. If they want to go in another direction, they will have an opportunity to move Luongo despite his no-trade clause.

    Luongo would be 38 years old. But, if he’s still playing at an elite level, should remain an intriguing trading chip. At that point of the deal Luongo would have five years left and he would be owed just $13.714 million. ”

    “If Luongo wanted to keep playing into his twilight years, and the team wanted to move on, the more likely scenario would see the Canucks buy out Luongo’s contract.

    Because his contract is heavily front-loaded, a buyout would provide a lot of relief after eight years: The Canucks would have paid $57-million to Luongo at that point, leaving just $7 million over the remaining four years. With a buyout amount of $4.7-million (two thirds of $7 million) spread over twice the remaining length of the 2-year deal, the Canucks would owe just $587,000 a year. ”

    Obviously, the new CBA changes the penalties accruable at the end of the deal but, as JW says, a rising cap in those years makes the penalty very affordable.

    I think the only gamble here is whether or not Luongo will continue to perform at a high level for the next four seasons.

    I don’t think that’s a bad bet.

  • DSF

    First, ….it is the wrong contract for the Oilers. Second,…..Dubnyk’s 26 yrs old now and his season to season performance keeps climbing upwards/progressively,…while Luongo is on his way to 35 yrs old and has but a very few years left for sure.

    The best deal is to go for a few other younger goaltenders with even better term contracts/are up for new contracts, etc. Those start being Mike Smith, Khudobin from Boston, maybe Emery, etc.

    The Oilers have two very important draft picks to make this year….one for a future top 2nd line centre (Barkov, Monahan, Lindholm, even Horvat) and a goalie to go up with Roy and Bunz,…(Fucale, Comrie, Jarry, Juuse Saros, or Ebbe Sionas).

    Trading Hemsky or Gagner, or Horcoff…. makes more sense when, in a smart deal package,the Oilers are going for established centre, power wingers, or a top two defencemen.

    The Oilers have future draft round picks to deal with, and several strong prospects to deal with also, including Omark, Rajala, Lander, Hartikainen, Fedun, Gernat, Musil, etc)

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Always felt sorry for Dubnyk in this city. No matter what he does, it’s never enough. I’ve watched most of the games played this year and I’ll tell you aside from one or two games, Dubnyk wasn’t the problem on most of those nights. If nothing else, he was the reason why games were kept as close as they were and always gave them a chance to win.

    The expectations from fans, and now apparently MacTavish, that Dubnyk should be winning these games by himself despite the obvious massive problem the team had of 5×5 scoring all year long with a squad stacked as offensively stacked as it is is mind boggling. Couple that with the glaring deficiencies the team has had on defense for years and I’m even more flummoxed by these expectations.

    MacTavish should be questioning Krueger’s systems before he questions Dubnyk’s play since where I stood that was more of a problem than anything else, but beyond that he should be putting a better team on the ice in front of him. Do that and I think those extra numbers you want to see improved from Dubnyk’s side of things will appear all on their own.

    I can’t even believe that this is even an issue beyond the fact that we do need a better NHL grade backup to replace Khabby.

  • To start, I will say I think Roberto Luongo is a very good goaltender. I think the city of Vancouver (& their media) is doing their best job to ruin this guy. But I think he’s very good.

    That said, there is no way in hell I would trade for Luongo so long as he has this contract. There is just too much risk involved for me. I think he’s a better goaltender than a lot of people in Vancouver though.

    I think the Oilers could benefit from a solid goalie like that though, but with all the debate on whether a team really needs a good goaltender these days, I think I’d look elsehwere… something a little more short term, at least.

  • yawto

    Depending on the deal it could be the fist bold move mact makes. Would he try get vigneault as well, we just turned our other manager who came from that organization.

  • Dubnyk is going to make a fine starter. get him some real net clearing defense. MacT is not impressed, well he never impressed me as a player or coach and probably from what I read won’t as a GM. If they really want to get better Start with dumping Lowe and MacT. The rest comes easy.

  • yawto

    Most starting goalies peak in their mid to late twenties. Lou is 34 yrs old he is past his prime, don’t get me wrong still a good goalie but if you are going to trade for him, you have to take that into account.

    How many starting goalies ate there in the NHL 34 yrs old and older and are effective.

    • DSF

      Goaltenders in their 30’s performing at a high level:

      Craig Anderson – 32 .941

      Henrik Lundqvist – 31 .926

      Ray Emery – 30 .922

      Viktor Fasth – 30 .921

      Thomas Vokoun – 36 .919

      Martin Biron – 35 .917

      Jonas Hiller – .913

      Evgeni Nabokov – 37 .910

      Pekka Rinne – 30 .910

      • otter2233

        So in a Dubnyk related article a while back you commented at how Dubnyk was merely average at best with a .921 save % this season now over half of the goalies you have listed here are under that % but are playing at a high level in your opinion… At Dubnyk’s age the upside and contract are much more appealing than dealing for Luongo in my opinion

        • DSF

          Dubnyk’s save percentage (based on his unsustainable percentage 4V5) is a mirage.

          While he MAY have upside, he MAY not.

          His contract was based on him being a bonafide NHL starter which I think is still questionable.

          Old Fart Khabibulin, playing behind the same team, registered a .923 save percentage which bests Dubnyk’s .920.

          Is he a better bet than Luongo in the next 4-5 years?

          Maybe…but the Oilers can’t gamble that that is the case.

        • DSF

          I’m aware of that.

          But there isn’t a magic date or age when a goaltender goes into decline.

          For example, would you pass on Craig Anderson because he’s going to be 34 in less than 2 years?