Why the NHL’s Proposal Could Increase Maple Leafs’ Interest In Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo has been subject to trade rumors since the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. There have been countless debates as to whether or not the Toronto Maple Leafs should make a deal to acquire the six-foot-three, 217-pound goaltender.

Has anything changed? The answer to that question is simply, yes.

To start, Doug MacLean and John Shannon of Sportsnet have been adamant in saying that the Maple Leafs will have increased interest in Luongo.  Why, though? The latest NHL collective bargaining agreement proposal to the NHLPA had one piece of information that may prove to make the acquisition of Luongo much more fathomable.

This piece of the agreement would erase one of the contract concerns that come with acquiring him. If Luongo were to be traded to the Leafs or any team and decided to retire before the end of his contract, the Canucks would be on the hook for the remaining number of years left. They wouldn’t have to pay Luongo but they would have to deal with the cap hit of his, about $5.3 million per year.

At first glance this doesn’t look like it affects the Leafs, but it does. Although we don’t know for sure, it isn’t much of a stretch to suggest that the remaining ten years on Luongo’s contract have negative value. He isn’t expected to play out the duration of his contract, which in the previous CBA wasn’t that big of a deal to the Leafs, should they acquire him.

However, Brian Burke and company knew a new CBA was coming. They knew that the NHL would want to crack down on deals such as Luongo’s. The “retirement” deal in which the first few years have a large salary and the last few years have virtually none, was considered circumvention of the salary cap. The NHL warned the teams signing players to these types of deals and how they are viewed by the league.

There was much speculation on how the NHL was going to deal with these contracts. For this reason, I believe it is a safe assumption to say Burke didn’t want to take the risk of acquiring Luongo. Imagine Burke acquired Luongo only to find out in the new CBA that he would be on the hook for the remaining years of Luongo’s contract should he decide to retire early. I believe this was a real concern. The news coming out makes Luongo’s contract virtually a non-issue.

The NHLPA is not expected to accept the NHL’s offer. However, I can’t see a situation where the NHLPA has much of an issue with this crack down on circumventing deals. The owners might but they made the proposal in the first place. All it takes is eight owners to agree to terms and the rule would go through.

Although it doesn’t answer all of the Luongo questions (asking price, playing capability, etc) it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Roberto Luongo’s contract looks as if it is about to become a non-issue to the Leafs.  Whether or not the remaining questions are too much for the Leafs to handle remains to be seen.

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