Apr 262012

One of the most significant stories of the first round of the playoffs is the early departure of the Vancouver Canucks and the resulting question mark surrounding Roberto Luongo’s future with the Canucks.  With young super prospect Cory Schneider out playing Luongo for arguably the second straight playoff it puts Luongo’s future with the Canucks in doubt.  As of now it seems apparent that Luongo is looking for a new start and the Canucks organization is probably looking more to Schneider than Luongo as their goalie of the future.  There is a lot of speculation about which teams might be interested in Luongo (Tampa, Toronto, Chicago, San Jose, New Jersey are some of the suggested locations) but to me the greater question is, should anyone even be interested in Luongo?

The easiest method to evaluate goalies is their save percentage but because of situational and score effect differences maybe the best save percentage to use is 5v5 close zone start adjusted save percentage.  The following table shows Luongo’s 5v5 close zone start adjusted save percentage over the past 5 seasons along with his rank among goalies who have played at least 1000 minutes of ice time.  I have also included his save percentage and rank among goalies with 3000 minutes over the past 3 years combined.

Year Sv% Rank
2007-08 91.10 17/27
2008-09 92.25 9/26
2009-10 91.57 15/30
2010-11 91.43 17/28
2011-12 91.36 17/31
2009-12 (3yr) 91.45 17/25

As you can see, Luongo is basically a middle of the road goalie and has been consistently a middle of the road goalie for the past 5 years.  Now, for about 10-15 teams, that would be an improvement on their current goaltending situation and for a few teams a significant improvement, but the question becomes, at what cost?  As I am sure everyone reading this is well aware, Luongo has a monster contract.  He is 33 years old and has 10 more years on his contract with a cap hit of $5.333M each year and his actual salary is $6.714M for the next 6 seasons before it begins to tail off.  That is a lot of money and term to commit to an aging (though no signs of declining performance yet) middle of the road goalie who will not likely live up to expectations the near term and will certainly not live up to expectations over the long term.

How this plays out is anyone’s guess.  In my mind, Luongo’s contract is not probably worth trading for, even if Luongo presents a significant improvement over a teams current goaltending situation.  One could argue that acquiring Luongo could put the Leafs and Lightning in a playoff spot, but the long term risk is huge and the ability for Luongo to consistently take a team deep into the playoffs has to be questioned, even in the next few years.  That said, I am sure there will be general managers out there that believe that Luongo is top tier goalie because his actual overall save percentage is pretty good and I am not sure how many of them will adjust for situational and score effects.  The question is, will that even be enough for them to overlook his contract.  I don’t think it will be easy for the Canucks to trade Luongo but I suspect they will find someone will take a chance on him.

(Update:  Read this for why adjusting for zone start is important and how I do the adjustment)