NHL Trade Rumors: Is there a “Plan B” for Roberto Luongo?

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Jul 26, 2012 12:01 PM EDT
Luongo or Bust?
After Roberto Luongo, it's a long drop-off to the other goaltenders available this summer. Is it worth it for Florida, Chicago or Toronto to explore other options?(Photo : REUTERS/Ben Nelms) "

Another day has dawned with Roberto Luongo still a Vancouver Canuck, and a group of teams rumored to include the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs rumored to be in the chase for the three-time All-Star.

In the end, of course, only one team will land Luongo, but as it stands now, all three teams appear to be in the market for a goaltender. So, it's only natural to ask what will become of the teams that miss out on this opportunity.

The "B" in "Plan B" could be for "Bernier," as Los Angeles Kings backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier is on the market after requesting a trade in the wake of Jonathan Quick's breakout season. Originally a first-round draft pick of the Kings (No. 11 overall) in 2006, the 23-year-old Bernier has shown big-league talent, but he has yet to put it all together at the NHL level. The Blackhawks and Leafs have shown interest in the Quebec native, as have the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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At the other end of the scale, there's unrestricted free agent Dwayne Roloson, most recently of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 14-year NHL veteran was outstanding two years ago for a Lightning team that came within a game of the Stanley Cup Finals, but came crashing down in 2011-12, posting a 13-6-3 record with a 3.66 goals-against average and a .886 save percentage. Roloson will turn 43 in October, and he may have reached the end of the line as an NHL goaltender. However, with the pickings slim for teams looking to upgrade their goaltending, Roloson could draw interest as the summer progresses.

Luongo is a hot topic for a very good reason. Like the equally coveted Rick Nash (who finally went to the New York Rangers on Monday), Luongo is the kind of player who doesn't go on the trade market very often. You just don't see a proven starting goaltender with deep playoff runs under his belt available. For the teams that don't get him, the choice could be between a potential has-been and a potential never-will-be. That's not a knock on Bernier, just an acknowledgement that the development of a goaltender is one of the hardest things in hockey to project, and while he should be a starting goaltender in the NHL at some point in the near future, there's no guarantee that he will be.

Don't look for Florida to be too hot on those secondary options. Their pursuit of Luongo is already complicated by Jacob Markstrom, the NHL's top goaltending prospect according to The Hockey News. If the Panthers can land Luongo this summer, they could face a challenging dilemma down the road, when Markstrom is ready for the NHL. If they don't, expect Florida to hold tight with Scott Clemmensen and Jose Theodore until Markstrom is ready, alongside a talented .

Chicago and Toronto, on the other hand, don't have the luxury of waiting for a hot prospect to develop. Chicago doesn't have a goalie among its top 10 prospects, and while Corey Crawford is still fairly young at 27, the fact that Chicago is looking at Bernier doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Like Luongo in Vancouver, Bernier is effectively a surplus asset in Los Angeles, so the price shouldn't be too high for Chicago. If the Blackhawks miss out on Luongo, look for them to renew interest in Bernier, or maybe even kick the tires on Roloson.

Toronto, meanwhile, does count a goalie (Ben Scrivens) among its top 10 prospects, but the former Cornell University star is largely unproven at the NHL level and probably not a long-term solution for a Maple Leafs team that is looking at Scrivens and James Reimer as its top goaltenders. If Toronto can't land Luongo, there's an obvious interest in another option.

In the end, it's probably Luongo or nothing for the Panthers, while Toronto and Chicago could certainly benefit from other possibilities. Could the greater need in the latter two cities push them to give up more for Luongo? It's worth keeping an eye on.

 

 

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