Better Know the Risk: Roberto Luongo

Better Know the Risk: Roberto Luongo

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Yesterday, in his summary of the recapture penalty of the new CBA as it pertained to Roberto Luongo, the Vancouver Canucks and potentially the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pierre Lebrun figured out the cap penalty the Leafs would sustain if Brian Burke were to acquire Roberto Luongo before this season and he were to go on to retire at age 40. That can be seen as the foreseeable point of retirement for Luongo as after the 2018-19 season, when Luongo will be 40, his salary will have already dropped from $6,714,000 in 2017-18 to $3,382,000 in 2018-19, and will then stand to drop to just $1,618,000 in 2019-20.

However, that retirement plan is by no means a guarantee, as Luongo’s play could slip, his health could deteriorate (if he’s placed on LTIR, Elliotte Friedman is already speculating on a possible loophole here) or ideally he could win a Cup with the Leafs and opt for early retirement. The $3,382,000 season was probably projected as a “maybe” year, for instance. After the jump, I have put together a breakdown on the cap penalty the Leafs or another acquiring team would sustain depending on when Luongo hangs up the skates.

The following table is pretty easy to understand; if Luongo retires after the season listed, the cap penalty listed will be incurred for the duration of years left (2012-13 salary and cap hit were left at their full 2012-13 values instead of pro-rated).

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It’s not pretty if Luongo retires between the ages of 37 and 40. Depending on whether or not he’s still a good goaltender, it’s also not necessarily pretty if Luongo pulls a Chelios, either, as that still charges the cap with a 5,333,333 hit for every season he’s still in the league. And there’s no such thing as dumping players in the minors anymore under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The more you look at these figures, you start to conclude the following: Luongo would probably be a big upgrade in net and well worth the $5.33 million cap hit for the next 5-6 years, but will probably become a burden of some degree after that. What many of us pro-Luongo types did not foresee was the cap benefit recapture penalty punishing teams that trade for the back-diving contract as well as the team that signed it. Under the old rules, Luongo would be off the cap books as soon as he retired. Under what we were expecting would happen with the cap benefit recapture rule in the new CBA, only the Canucks would sustain the blowback once Luongo retired before the expiration of his contract. As it turns out… not the case.

If Luongo retires relatively early, the Leafs may only be dealing with a cap hit of $1 million, but could be paying it for up to 5 or 6 years. Not preferred, obviously, but not intractable either. Worst case scenario is Luongo retiring at 39 or 40 and the Leafs incurring a $2 million and change cap hit for a retired player for the following three or four years. Best case is Luongo performing well until retirement at age 41 and only costing $1.3 million on the cap for two more years.

Is 5 or so good years of Luongo worth this probable blowback? Especially if he can be had on the cheap (trade cost wise)? Could Gillis be desperate enough to move his cap hit (with $60 mill committed to 13 players next season) that he’ll be willing to retain some of his salary, helping to reduce the penalty? Either way, I say ‘aye.’ Development is random and stability is imperative at this position. It’s worth mentioning the last two goaltenders the Leafs had that were any good were both acquired well past 30. And who knows if $1 or 2 million matters all that much once the cap starts rising again.

What say you, MLHS?

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]

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