In order to help us all kill time, Brian Burke did a Q&A on Twitter on Thursday night, fielding questions from fans about his time as an executive in the league. One of the more interesting tidbits that came out of this was Burke admitting truth behind all of the Luongo to the Leafs rumours from a few years ago.
We were all in hard on Luongo around the time when I got fired. The price would have come down to a lot but we were in the mix. They asked for Gardiner, Kadri and two firsts. Way too step, even for @strombone1 https://t.co/QNto0oM5XU
— Brian Burke (@Burkie2020) April 3, 2020
So, as Burke says, this happened around the time he got fired, which was in mid-January of 2013, right before the start of the lockout-shortened season. The previous season, the Leafs had missed the season by a pretty wide margin. A key reason for that was the goaltending group of Jonas Gustavsson, James Reimer, Ben Scrivens, and Jussi Rynnas combined for a .900 save percentage.
On the other side of the country, the Canucks had a goaltending controversy on their hands. Cory Schneider had put together an incredible showing, posting a .937 in 33 games as the 1B to Roberto Luongo and it was getting to the point where the Canucks had to pick one or the other.
The Canucks went into the playoffs in 2012 as a Stanley Cup contender yet again after being edged out by the Boston Bruins in seven games the year prior. In the first round, the No. 1 seeded Canucks went up against the No. 8 seeded L.A. Kings. Vancouver got outplayed in Game 1 and lost 4-2. In Game 2, Luongo got shelled for four goals against on 26 shots and the Canucks again lost 4-2. The Canucks went with Schneider for the rest of the series with Luongo watching from the bench.
In the off-season, Schneider was rewarded with a three-year contract worth $12 million. Given Schneider’s new deal and the fact he had taken over the starter’s net in the playoffs, it seemed Luongo’s time in Vancouver had come to an end.
Burke obviously didn’t believe in his team’s goaltending tandem, so he jumped on the opportunity to pry Luongo out of Vancouver now that he had fallen out of favour. Apparently, the Canucks, who were managed by Mike Gillies at the time, were asking for Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, and two first-round picks. That was obviously way too steep of an asking price, so Bruke backed off.
As we know, the Leafs overachieved their way to a playoff spot in the shortened 2013 season thanks largely to a .924 save percentage from James Reimer. The following season, they plummeted back to earth. Meanwhile, Luongo had a terrible season as Schneider’s backup, posting a .907 save percentage in 20 games. The Canucks again lost in the first round of the playoffs, this time getting swept by the San Jose Sharks.
It’s probably a good thing Burke didn’t pull the trigger on that Luongo deal. No deal Burke made would have changed the fact that the Leafs badly needed to go through a rebuilding process and adding Luongo and his colossal contract to the equation at the cost of two good players and two first-round picks would have made biting the bullet and doing so even more difficult.
A couple of years later, the Canucks ended up trading Luongo to Florida in exchange for Shawn Matthias and Jakob Markstrom. That’s a lot less than what Gillis was asking for from Burke.