Should the NHL lockout end with a season-saving deal in mid-January, there could be some significant changes coming for the Vancouver Canucks.
VANCOUVER PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma expects the first significant post-lockout move by the Canucks will be attempting to get a good return for goaltender Roberto Luongo. Even if the club were to buy out the remainder of Luongo’s contract, Kuzma points out they still need a third-line center, a depth defenseman and a backup goaltender.
He feels the Toronto Maple Leafs remain at the front of the line for Luongo, suggesting the Canucks target center Tyler Bozak and defenseman Cody Franson. Candidates for a backup include Eddie Lack (currently on the Canucks farm team), or perhaps a free agent option like Dan Ellis, who told Kuzma via e-mail he’d be receptive to backing up Cory Schneider.
Tony Gallagher, meanwhile, suggested Keith Ballard as a possible buyout candidate if the Canucks need to free up cap space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Should there be significant progress toward a new CBA over the next couple of weeks we can expect the trade and free agent rumor mill to creak slowly back to life. When it does, Roberto Luongo will be its dominant name. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Bozak suggested as part of the return if the Canucks were to ship “Bobby Lu” to Toronto, but it is the first time Franson’s name has popped up.
For now, we have no idea what plans Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has in store post-lockout for his club. If he does pursue Luongo, I’d expect he’ll have to part with Bozak, and might entertain the possibility of adding Franson if his contract negotiations (he’s currently an unsigned RFA) prove difficult.