Even though the lockout hasn’t officially come to an end, it hasn’t stopped rumors about star players from piling up. Probably the hottest rumors out there at the moment are the ones surrounding the Vancouver’s 4-time All Star goalie, Roberto Luongo. Since being benched in the first round of the NHL playoffs last year by the LA Kings, the Canucks have handed out a 3 year, $12 million deal to, their then backup, Cory Schneider and Luongo’s name has been tossed around in many trade talks all summer.
Before the lockout began, the two front runners to land Luongo were the Florida Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. I wrote an article, before the lockout began, saying that I believed that Luongo was going to be playing for the Florida Panthers. A few weeks prior to the lockout, trade negotiations between the Panthers and the Canucks were heating up and it seemed like Luongo was destined to return back to Florida, but the deal was never completed before the lockout and negotiations ceased, for obvious reasons. It would seem reasonable that since the lockout is over, that the Panthers and the Canucks would just resume negotiations and finish the deal, right?
With very little time for teams to be able all of their off-season goals before the season begins, some teams may become desperate for a much-needed piece for their team. The Toronto Maple Leafs could very possibly be one of those teams. With the Maple Leafs in need of a true number one goaltender, GM Brian Burke may bight the bullet to acquire the biggest fish in the sea. It has been report by a few outlets that Luongo is willing to waive his NMC to allow a trade to the Leafs and that once the new CBA is ratified, Luongo will be traded to the Leafs.
Assuming these reports are true, how good can the Leafs be in the shortened 2013 NHL season? Last season the Leafs got off to a quick start and sat at the top of the Eastern Conference for the first few weeks, but then as the season progressed the Leafs began to slip down the standings. If the 2011-2012 season had ended after 48 games (the length of the 2013 season), the Leafs would’ve finished tied for the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, and that was with two goalies who are average at best. So with Luongo as their starter where will the Leafs finish?
Luongo has been a great regular season goalie for his career and I don’t see that changing just yet. The Leafs ranked 10th in goals for last season, but ranked 29th in goals against while the Canucks ranked 4th in goals against. The Leafs also added James Van Riemsdyk from the Flyers. JVR was selected 2nd in the 2007 Draft, but he has been hampered with injuries his whole career. When healthy JVR has proven that he can be 40-50 point player and if you add that to an already potent offense with a strong goalie, the Leafs’ chances for the reaching the playoffs greatly increases. If the Leafs get similar production out of Luongo, the Leafs will easily be in contention for the playoffs.
If the Leafs do acquire Luongo before the beginning of the shortened 2013 season, I see the Leafs getting to the 2nd round of the playoffs at best, but at the very least, I see them as a sure fire playoff team who will be competing from day one.
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