You can’t make this stuff up.
Back in 2004, Brian Burke was fired as general manager of the Vancouver Canucks and replaced by his right-hand man Dave Nonis. One of Nonis’ first big moves as GM, of course, was acquiring all-star goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Well, here we go again.
Burke was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs this morning and right on cue, Nonis – his senior vice-president and director of hockey operations – took the wheel. Many hockey pundits have speculated this might expedite a potential deal between the Leafs and Canucks surrounding guess who . . . Roberto Luongo.
It’s no secret the Leafs and Canucks have been in trade talks for months. Burke was apparently reluctant to pull the trigger; Nonis probably won’t be. But does this mean Nonis is going to succumb to Mike Gillis’ demands and hand over Jake Gardiner?
I wouldn’t count on it.
As TSN hockey analyst Darren Dregger (who also happens to be Nonis’ cousin) pointed out earlier, Nonis isn’t a rookie GM. He won’t be pressured into anything.
Burke’s biggest blunder with the Leafs was parting with draft picks that turned out to be Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and Jared Knight in a deal for Phil Kessel.
Nonis won’t make the same mistake.
Take the 2008 NHL trade deadline, for example, when the Canucks reportedly had interest in Dallas Stars forward Brad Richards. Nonis offered up a package that included Cory Schneider and Luc Bourdon, according to Dreger, and the Stars asked for Ryan Kesler and Alexander Edler.
Obviously, Nonis didn’t budge. It’s not his style – and it probably never will be.
Do I think a deal between the Canucks and Leafs still gets done? Yes, but I’d be shocked if it included Gardiner (though a source close to the situation says there’s still a “remote chance.”) He’s too valuable to the Leafs right now and he’s only going to get better – a lot better. In fact, I’d suspect Nonis values Gardiner as much today as he did Edler back in 2008 – if not more.
So where does that leave us?
Tyler Bozak’s name has been thrown around – as has Nazem Kadri’s. For the latter, I’d imagine Canucks director of player development Dave Gagner is very familiar with Kadri’s game, as he grew up playing in London’s minor hockey system like Dave’s son, Sam Gagner.
Maybe Burke was unwilling to part with Kadri, who is having himself a nice season with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Maybe Nonis won’t be. Maybe that’s what will finally bring this deal to a conclusion.
For what it’s worth, that would be my best bet.