Generally speaking, when most general managers outline their plan to build a competitive team they will start by building from the crease out. The Vancouver Canucks are no exception. Hell, you could even have made the case last season that too much was made of that philosophy, what with the whole two elite goaltenders thing playing out all season…
So when projecting the Canucks roster going into next season, what better position to start with?
On Luongo, and Convincing him to Report
With the 2013 draft came one of the more surprising trades in recent Canucks history. The difficulties involved in potentially moving Roberto Luongo‘s contract were finally realized by Mike Gillis, and resulted in his trading Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the ninth-overall pick in the 2013 draft.
While the merits of this trade are rather objectionable, the reality of the matter is Gillis had to trade one of them and fast; free agency was fast approaching and the Canucks wouldn’t have even had the cap space to sign their own RFA’s let alone any UFAs.
I’m not good at this whole “feelings” thing, but I imagine Roberto Luongo’s were hurt. For 16 months he had prepared to leave this city and get on with his career.
The divorced had been all but signed between Luongo and the Canucks. He played the role of the good soldier and split reps with Cory Schneider without letting this drama visibly affect his play. But this was supposed to be the offseason that finally saw his departure from this pressure cooker of a hockey market that is Vancouver.
I’m of the belief that Luongo will eventually report. The Canucks have his wanting to play for Team Canada in the 2014 Sochi Olympics on their side, and there’s also the $7.5M in salary he’s due to receive. Even the richest of folks would have a hard time turning that down.
The Battle at Backup
Assuming Luongo reports to training camp, he will start. This much we know. Behind him though the situation is a lot less clear. While the Canucks don’t have much in the way of cap space (roughly $5.1 million) they probably have enough to sign a veteran free agent to backup Lu.
That being said, there are much more pressing needs than a backup goalie and the Canucks have two very good options in-house.
Now about those options… The two goalies likely to be competing for the backup job behind Bobby Lu are recently signed Joacim Eriksson of the Swedish Elite League and Eddie Lack.
Eddie Lack seems like the obvious choice. He’s spent three years in the Canucks organization playing for their last two farm team incarnations in the Chicago Wolves and Manitoba Moose.
While last year was his most forgettable season (3.00 GAA and .899 SV%) in the AHL, much of this can be attributed to a nagging hip injury that forced him to get surgery.
When healthy Lack has been nothing short of spectacular in the AHL. In his first two seasons he sported .925 and .926 SV%, so the guy can play. He also has size going for him, standing at a towering 6’5.
The new guy…
The other horse in the race, Joacim Eriksson, is a bit of a wildcard. His numbers and record in the Swedish Elite League are bordering on absurdly good (last season he went 21-9-0 with a 1.67GAA and a .931SV%).
That being said, he has no experience playing in North America and is also very young for a goalie (only 23 years old).
I wouldn’t be overcome with grief if Eriksson landed the job, but methinks the organization and Eriksson would be best served if he spent at least a year or two in the AHL.
While there is some uncertainty regarding whether Luongo will play for the Canucks or not next season, it’s mostly overblown.
Roberto Luongo is a very proud man who only ever wanted to be the starter. He now has that chance. Look for him to be the team’s starter again, with Eddie Lack likely serving as his backup.