Maple Leafs Clearing Salary: Luongo Deal Inching Closer?

 

Roberto Luongo might not come to Toronto if Gillis does not drop his asking price...

Roberto Luongo might not come to Toronto if Gillis does not drop his asking price…

Just one day after Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis traded forward Matthew Lombardi to the Phoenix Coyotes, Nonis has placed forward Tim Connolly on waivers.

The Lombardi netted Nonis a conditional pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, which could be high as a third rounder should Lombardi re-sign with the Coyotes this summer. As part of the Lombardi deal the Maple Leafs will retain $500,000 of Lombardi’s $3.5 million salary. That means the Maple Leafs saved $3.0 million by disposing of Lombardi.

In the case of Connolly the Maple Leafs have four choices. He could get picked up on waivers (unlikely), they could keep him on the roster (not happening), they could bury him in the AHL or they could buy him out.

When you combine the significant savings that will come with the trading of Connolly with what the Maple Leafs will save on a potential demotion of Connolly the Maple Leafs stand to save a pile of money whether he gets bought out or sent to the AHL to play with the Marlies, which is the most likely scenario.

According to capgeek.com the Maple Leafs currently have a total of $62,165,833 committed to 22 players for the upcoming 48-game season. Connolly was set to cost the Maple Leafs $4.75 million in cap space. Should he get sent down to play with the Marlies, Connolly would carry a cap hit of $3,850,000, saving the Blue and White $900,000. Currently, Connolly’s $3,875,000 cap hit is listed as “buried” on capgeek.com, while Lombardi’s $500,000 is listed as a “retained salary transaction” which is one of the new wrinkles in the recently signed CBA.

So, what will the Maple Leafs do with this close to $4.0 million lottery win?

James Reimer Maple Leafs

James Reimer still has plenty to prove in the minds of many experts…(Icon SMI)

Despite a call for an upgrade between the pipes, Nonis, like Burke, seems content to start the season with James Reimer as his starter with AHL All-Star Ben Scrivens assuming the backup role.

That said, don’t be surprised to see Scrivens between the pipes when the Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. Scrivens appears to have been getting the lions share of the work in practices, and when you consider he has been playing well at the AHL level and Reimer’s struggles in the scrimmages, Starting Scriens just makes sense.

In the long run, Reimer’s injury concerns and questionable play last season, combined with the inexperience at the NHL level that comes with Scrivens, has more than a few prognosticators questioning the Maple Leafs’ depth between the pipes.

Reimer looked like a brick of Swiss cheese in his teams’ 5-1 loss in the Maple Leafs Blue and White scrimmage on Wednesday. Meanwhile, despite an impressive 22-15-1 record with the Toronto Marlies this season, Scrivens is hardly a lock, bringing a rather ordinary 4-5-0-2 record in 12 career starts at the NHL level to go along with a 0.902 save percentage and a bloated 3.13 goals against average.

Which brings us to the subject of Roberto Luongo.

With two elite goaltenders in toe and a roster that is officially on the clock in terms of Stanley Cup Championship opportunities quickly expiring, Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis would like to strengthen his roster by moving Roberto Luongo and the considerable salary that comes with him.

Trouble is, early rumors suggest that Gillis is asking the Maple Leafs for one or both of Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri in return for Luongo, not to mention having to assume all or most of Luongo’s hefty contract.

Needless to say, any thoughts of parting with both Boazk and Kadri would absolutely kill the Maple Leafs’ depth down the middle. Bozak looks poised to be back on the top line with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, while the Lombardi and Connolly moves suggest Kadri (who scored a hat-trick in Wednesday’s scrimmage) will finally get a real shot at sticking with the Maple Leafs as a third line (potentially top-six) forward this season.

Should Gillis come down in his asking price, Nonis has at the very least positioned his club to absorb Luongo’s contract.

While most Leaf fans would agree that heading into the 2013 season with Reimer and Scrivens is a gamble, many still feel that the acquisition of Luongo is too risky, especially when you consider the asking price.

Both Nonis and Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle have hinted at looking at cheaper options than the one presented by Gillis. Both Burke (now departed) and Nonis are said to have kicked the tires on bringing Los Angeles Kings backup Jonathan Bernier to Toronto, but thus far those rumors have yet to come true.

The only thing that is clear at this point is that Nonis has plenty of cap space; time will tell if he intends to allocate a big chunk of it towards bringing Luongo to Toronto.

 

 

 

Mark Ritter
Known as an honest, opinionated and trusted writer, Mark Ritter brings a unique view on the Maple Leafs and the NHL in general. Mark has been writing about hockey for almost ten years and is known for bringing an honest view on the Maple Leafs. You can view more of Mark's work at www.theslapshot.com Please follow Mark on Twitter: @theslapshot

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