Luongo puts Canucks in a bind
1. Tampa Bay Lightning. They would rather have Schneider because he’s seven years younger and the length of Luongo’s contract scares them, but GM Steve Yzerman was the man running the Olympic team in Vancouver and Luongo was the goalie in the gold-medal game. If they can’t get Schneider they would be looking at the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Bernier or Nashville Predators’ Anders Lindback, most likely. They have two first-rounders and the possibility of four second-rounders to dangle for a young goalie. They also need another top-six forward, so there are other holes to fill.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs. Brian Burke missed the playoffs because James Reimer and Jonas (I’m Not Such a Monster) Gustafsson weren’t nearly good enough in net. If he wanted Schneider, the Canucks would want Jake Gardiner on defence, which could be a stumbling block. Luongo could get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2004, and Burke, in the fifth year of his contract, needs some positive energy in the centre of the universe.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets will be parting with Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason and probably will be dealing captain Rick Nash for forward help. They were going to use Nash to get a goalie, but their fan base is eroding badly and they need a No. 1 goalie. Ian Clark, the Jackets goalie coach, used to be Luongo’s goalie coach in Vancouver and they’re friends, but it’s a long shot they would take him with the time left on his contract. They will be trying for Bernier, too, and maybe Lindback.
4. Florida Panthers. This is where Luongo had a huge fan following before he was dealt to the Canucks for Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan Allen six years ago. Luongo married a woman from Florida and he lives there in the summer months. This would be his first choice and the Panthers aren’t sold on Jose Theodore, although they do have a really good farm team prospect in Jakub Markstrom. The Canucks would like two of their kids, Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden, for sure.
5. Chicago Blackhawks. OK, the Hawks lit up Luongo in the playoffs, but do you really think they’re comfortable with Corey Crawford and Ray Emery? They would have to divest themselves of a contract, though. Say Niklas Hjalmarsson on defence, who is overpriced at $3.75 million because he gives them no offence.