Luongo Likely on the Way Out: Fantasy Ramifications
(4/26/12) The Canucks clearly think they have their goaltender of the future in Cory Schneider, and Roberto Luongo is graciously stepping aside and saying all the right things as it appears all but certain that he's played his last game in Vancouver. Luongo reportedly requested a trade during his exit meeting with the team, and we have to think the Canucks will oblige.
Considering Luongo has a no-trade clause, he does hold some say over where he goes. Possible landing destinations that have been mentioned include Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Columbus. There are likely to be other suitors as well, but to us Tampa feels like the best fit. The Lightning were one game away from the Stanley Cup Final last season, but this year things went completely off the tracks for the franchise, and the lack of reliable goaltending was one of the main reasons. If the Lightning added Luongo, they'd be maybe one or two pieces short on the back end, and otherwise they'd be right there as a top team. Also, it's been beaten to death that Luongo's wife is from Florida, and that may factor in as well.
In terms of fantasy value, Tampa Bay also seems like the most desirable situation. With Steve Stamkos emerging as the league's premier scorer and a roster stocked with dangerous forwards, Tampa is definitely a desirable place to play. As well, Luongo is usually at his best when facing lots of shots, and he'd certainly see plenty of rubber back-stopping the high-flying Lightning. The other positive of any move is that he'll be able to play workhorse minutes without having to look over his shoulder at his back-up. With that said, regardless where Luongo goes, he's not going to land with a team as strong as the Canucks, and therefore his fantasy value takes a bit of a hit.
Toronto does certainly also make some sense, however we wonder whether Luongo wants to put himself back under the microscope in the biggest hockey market in the world. Considering the way his tenure has gone in Vancouver, Bobby Lou might decide he wants to go somewhere that he can fly a little further under the radar without the pressure of playing in a huge Canadian market. With that said, he would look pretty good in blue with the Maple Leaf on his chest...
Perhaps the biggest shift though (assuming Luongo does indeed depart), is to the value of Cory Schneider. Schneider immediately becomes an upper-echelon fantasy goaltender worthy of a top 5 pick at the position. He'll need to show he can step up and get it done when he's the #1 and not the back-up, but all signs point to the fact that he's fully ready and capable of shouldering the load for the Canucks, and for fantasy owners next season.