Considering what we know about the relationship between Brian Burke and Mike Gillis (it's frosty -- Wendy's frozen dairy dessert frosty), the frequency with which they were spotted chatting Friday is probably a good indicator that they're negotiating a potential trade.
I mean, I don't think they ducked into that tunnel for a romantic swan boat ride:
Burke and Gillis just walked off the draft floor together into the tunnel by penguins room.Clearly not a quick hello, all business.#tsn
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) June 22, 2012
The known position of need for both men tell us these conversations likely centered around, say, "a Roberto Luongo type."
The Canucks are trying to move one of those. The Leafs are trying to get one.
But the deal makes sense on many more levels than that. Luongo isn't just a good goalie. He's also a veteran that could help a young roster like Toronto's, especially with his valuable experience playing in a city that habitually treats its hockey players -- goaltenders especially -- like ass. Meanwhile, Toronto has the cap space to absorb Luongo's hefty contract, the pieces to send back, and Luongo's blessing (particularly helpful when he can veto any trade).
Yet, despite all the reasons this deal fits, nothing has happened yet, and neither side is being very committal about their plans. What's going on?
I would suggest that the primary roadblock is the two personalities brokering the deal.
I'm of the mind that Gillis and Burke's negotiations are hardly the usual talks. There are a lot of personal elements at stake.
First, this deal has been a long-time coming for both sides. When Gillis took over the Canucks in 2008, it was clear that he was going to have to move one of Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo. Four years later, he's put it off as long as humanly possible and now he has to act. And speaking of four years, that's how long Brian Burke has been running the Leafs without properly solving their crease conundrum. Some would argue it's why they haven't made the playoffs during that span.
In effect, these GMs are trying to work out a deal that's been a presidential administration in the making. That's some serious pressure, and if the lead-up is any indication, it's going to take time.
There's more pressure too, since both GMs are negotiating with their stocks at all-time lows. Gillis and Burke are coming off perhaps the worst seasons in their respective tenures, from a public relations standpoint. 2011-12 saw their capability for the job questioned and scrutinized more intensely than ever before.
Between the Leafs' horrible second half and the Canucks' first-round postseason flameout, both GMs lost a lot of face last year, and they could gain a lot of it back by winning this trade.
These are some big, bruised egos at work.
And speaking of those egos, it doesn't help that Gillis and Burke have a strong personal dislike for one another. They're professionals, of course, which is why they're putting aside their differences to chat about this deal, but they're also both very proud. You can be assured that neither will make this deal unless they're absolutely confident no one will claim they were bested by their rival.
As a result, you get two guys playing some of the most transparent poker of their lives, hoping the other blinks first. Here's Gillis, from the Vancouver Sun:
"We're listening to a number of different situations," Gillis said Friday. "I haven't made my mind up yet on what direction we're going to go. I think it's more prudent to be patient and make sure we're doing the right thing for our organization and that's what we're going to do."
So basically, Gillis has tons of options, according to Gillis.
My favourite option is the suggestion that maybe he won't trade either goalie.
Yeah, that's happening. He's just going to re-sign Cory Schneider to a starter's wage and have millions sitting on the bench every night. This is like double-fisting popsicles on a hot summer day. One will melt while you're eating the other. You wind up just wasting one of your assets and looking like a fool with a handful of melted popsicle.
Meanwhile, Burke is being just as casual, acting as though he too is perfectly okay with the two guys he's got:
"I don't need a goaltender until we play the first game," Burke told reporters. "And we are far more comfortable with the guys we have than the media seems to be. If we can upgrade at a reasonable price, we will. I don't feel any pressure to [trade for a goalie] now."
Trusting Ben Scrivens and James Reimer to carry your team into the playoffs is like having no popsicles on a hot summer day. That's how you get heatstroke.
The truth is that, if both Gillis and Burke actually do head into training camp with the goalies they have now, they're going to look far sillier than after any lopsided trade. Neither will admit it, but they both have some serious need to make a deal, and at some point, you have to think that something will give.
But that's just my opinion. I'm weak. This standoff could drag on forever.