The real story of the trade deadline was the trades that weren’t made, particularly when it came to two big-name goaltenders in the Northwest Division. Both Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo were rumoured to be heading to the Toronto Maple Leafs at various points throughout the day. Neither did.
The attitudes of the two goaltenders as rumours swirled couldn’t have been more different. Kiprusoff simply didn’t want to be traded. He might even retire in the off-season. Luongo clearly wanted nothing more than to be traded so that he could start playing hockey again, leading to one of the most honest and blunt press conferences in recent memory.
So why, exactly, didn’t Luongo get traded? Luongo himself seemed to think that it was because of his contract, while Mike Gillis said it wasn’t a stumbling block and that discussions have centred around picks and players. Exactly what picks and players is unclear, though one particular rumour quickly spread after the trade deadline had passed. Darren Dreger initially reported that the Canucks were looking to acquire Ben Scrivens and two second round draft picks in return for Roberto Luongo, a report that was echoed by Pierre LeBrun, Jason Botchford, and Kevin McGran, among others.
Dreger appeared on TSN 1050 on Monday, however, and threw a big ol’ wrench into the works, apparently revealing what the Canucks were originally seeking in a trade with the Leafs and throwing his original report into doubt in the process.
From our perspective, the original report was strange. If all the Canucks were going to get in a Luongo trade was draft picks and a backup goaltender to fill Luongo’s spot on the bench, then it didn’t make any sense to make the trade at the deadline. The Canucks could instead keep Luongo for the remainder of the year, a far better insurance policy than Ben Scrivens if Cory Schneider gets injured, and look to make a trade in the off-season at the draft when teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and Florida Panthers might be more open to wheeling and dealing.
It simply doesn’t make sense for a contending team to make a deal at the trade deadline that doesn’t, at least theoretically, improve the team for the current season. Even the Cody Hodgson trade, which was derided as sacrificing the present for the future, made some sort of sense in the short term in light of the Samuel Pahlsson trade, even if it ended up not working out at all in the playoffs. It may have been a misguided move, but you could see some sort of logic there. Trading Luongo for draft picks at the trade deadline just didn’t add up.
Is it possible that the Canucks asked for Scrivens and two second round picks? Sure. It’s entirely possible that Gillis just wanted to get a deal done, regardless of whether it helped the team this season or not. Brian Burke once waived Ilya Bryzgalov in order to keep a promise to move him. But it didn’t jibe with what Gillis has maintained all along this season: that the Canucks are in no rush to make a deal.
Monday afternoon on TSN Drive, Dreger discussed the topic of Vancouver’s asking price once again:
At one point in that 45 minute discussion, I was told that Vancouver wanted Tyler Biggs and was told, ‘No, not available.’ Okay, then Joe Colborne. ‘All right, what else?’ Clarke MacArthur, Ben Scrivens, and a second round draft pick. And Toronto said, ‘No, we’re not doing that, we’re not giving you a roster player or prospects, we’ve got to come up with something that is less specific.’ Then they got down to Scrivens and the two seconds, or whatever it ended up being and Toronto asked for money to be retained: a million dollars per year.
Aiming for a prospect like Colborne (or Biggs) and a useful roster player like MacArthur to go with a replacement goaltender and a draft pick is the kind of deal that makes sense for both the present and the future, giving the Canucks a winger that can play on the second or third line right now, a big centre that could be NHL-ready next season, and the potential of a second round draft pick. MacArthur is also a pending UFA, so it makes sense to request him back in a trade. From the Canucks’ perspective, this would be a fairly decent return for Luongo.
That makes it even more doubtful in my mind that the Canucks ended up coming down to Scrivens and two second round picks. Essentially, the Canucks would have moved from MacArthur and Colborne down to a second round pick. Again, it’s possible, but it doesn’t make sense to make that trade at the deadline, particularly when they were apparently aiming for a roster player that could help them right away.
It’s important to take what Dreger has to say about the Leafs with a grain or two of salt, since he is Dave Nonis’s cousin, but it’s not like he’s an unreliable source, and he certainly has legitimate sources within the organization. The question isn’t whether Dreger’s sources are reliable, however, but whether Dreger’s sources have an agenda.
This isn’t at all unique to Toronto and Dave Nonis — NHL general managers fight their battles through the media all the time — though Dreger being related to Nonis makes their situation unique. It’s certainly a tactic that Gillis has used in the past.
What I find fascinating about Dreger’s quote from TSN Drive, is that even he seems to question whether the Canucks requested Scrivens and picks, saying, “Then they got down to Scrivens and the two seconds, or whatever it ended up being.”
Whatever it ended up being? Dreger is the one who reported it in the first place, initially on Twitter and then in more detail on TSN.
It’s hard, at this point, to know what to believe. There has been very little noise made out of the Canucks’ camp since the post-deadline press conference. Frankly, that makes sense from the Canucks’ perspective: with the trade deadline over, there’s very little to be gained by extending the conversation about Luongo, and the team would certainly prefer that the conversation heading into the playoffs is, you know, playoff-related.
But when the playoffs are over, we can expect this drama and its multifarious conflicting reports to boil right back up again.