People criticizing Scott Howson over the Rick Nash trade need to remember a few things.
For starters, the Columbus Blue Jackets general manager was trying to trade a superstar that everyone and his brother knew had to go, as Howson made it public knowledge that he'd requested a trade. In addition, Nash had a no-trade clause, which limited his potential suitors to the teams that he deemed acceptable. Topping it all off, Nash was locked into a big money contract that has him on the books at $7.8 million per year through 2018.
These are things to keep in mind when it comes to the Vancouver Canucks and their ongoing efforts to trade Roberto Luongo.
The fact that Luongo will not be a Canuck when the 2012-13 season begins is common knowledge at this point, as the Canucks have anointed Cory Schneider as their starting goaltender going forward, and they aren't going to pay Luongo more than $5 million per year to be a backup (more on that in a moment). Like Nash, Luongo has a no-trade clause that he'll have to waive for any deal, although he hasn't been as specific as Nash, refusing to rule out any destination (even though he does appear to favor Chicago or Florida). Meanwhile, Luongo is on the books for even longer than Nash, albeit for less money, as his contract carries a $5.3 million salary cap hit until 2022.
So, does that mean that the hockey world will be as underwhelmed with Canucks GM Mike Gillis once Luongo is gone as it is with Howson right now? Not necessarily. There may be similarities here, but the Canucks are in a very different situation.
For starters, the Canucks are not giving up their franchise player. Losing Luongo does not make Vancouver a different team than the one that Gillis is already putting on the ice. Led by the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, Alex Burrows, Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver returns most of the major contributors from the team that captured the President's Trophy last season, with Schneider taking over in the crease as the only major difference besides the fact that Sami Salo is now a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Luongo doesn't mean nearly as much to the Canucks as Nash meant to the Blue Jackets. Not anymore, anyway.
In addition, Gillis hasn't set unreasonable expectations by aiming too high. The package that Howson wound up getting for Nash really isn't that bad. In fact, it's probably about as good as Howson was going to get given the realities of the situation. However, the fact that he started out looking for Logan Couture or Jeff Skinner made it look much worse when he ended up with Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick. Gillis hasn't swung for a towering home run, so if he can crack a nice double, all will be well with Vancouver.
Finally, Luongo is a unique commodity on this summer's trade market: an All-Star goaltender who can perform at an elite level during the regular season (the playoffs are still a matter for concern). For the teams believed to be in the hunt for Luongo - that would be the Chicago Blackhawks, the Florida Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, if you're keeping score at home - goaltending is a major need, and there's no real "Plan B" for the teams that strike out on Luongo.
None of this is to say, of course, that the Canucks are going to make the blockbuster deal for Luongo that Howson wanted (and may have needed) for Nash. The truth, however, is that they don't really have to, and chances are that when Luongo goes, the Canucks will do just fine.