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Roberto Luongo and the Saga of Speculation

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A mad scramble of rumours and hearsay, today will likely go down as a turning point in the Roberto Luongo saga.

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Rich Lam

So, today has been an absolute gong show in the ongoing saga of Roberto Luongo.

In case you fell victim to the early stages of the oncoming zombie apocolypse and are just now awakening from a 12-hour slumber, Brian Burke was fired as the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs . You know, the same Brian Burke who has reportedly been after Vancouver's passé goaltender for months now.

And his replacement? Why, none other than the man who brought Roberto Luongo to Vancouver in the first place, Dave Nonis! The thought plickens.

My initial thought upon hearing the news was that we had just found out who was ultimately under more pressure between Brian Burke and Mike Gillis to make the Luongo deal. I assumed Leafs ownership had wanted Luongo badly, told Burke to go get him, and canned him when he was unable to do so (it's not as if that would be the only bullet in their chamber either, with nary a playoff appearance on Burke's resume). Whether Burke wasn't as high on Luongo as his bosses or just wasn't willing to pay the price Gillis was asking is something that will likely never be publicly clarified. It's not even clear whether or not the potential trade had anything to do with his dismissal.

For what it's worth, Pierre LeBrun, one of the most trusted voices in hockey, thinks it was a factor. Mark Spector, a less trusted, if still notable voice, does too:

Meanwhile, the TSN trifecta of James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, and Darren Dreger don't think the Luongo talks played a part at all:

Keep in mind that TSN is owned by CTV, which in turn is owned by Bell Media, who have a majority stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Brian Burke himself was reportedly "astonished" by the news. You have to wonder that if trade talks were going poorly, and Burke knew how badly the brass wanted Luongo, why he would be so surprised at the decision. But this, again, is all speculation that will likely never be made clear.

So what happens now? Well, all signs point to talks being reignited between Mike Gillis and the much more reasonable and even-tempered Dave Nonis. It makes sense; Nonis has always been high on Luongo. In fact, Province columnist Jason Botchford even suggested yesterday that Nonis may have been driving the bus before Burke was even let go:

But while all of the attention will be on the two strong-willed bosses who will never be pals, it's more likely their assistant general managers - the Canucks' Laurence Gilman and the Leafs' Dave Nonis - who get the deal done. If it gets done.

And now, as if we haven't had enough speculation for one day, the Philadelphia Flyers are rumoured to be in the mix. What in the what? Even if they plan to give Ily Bryzgalov the lame horse treatment and buy him out in the summer, that would still be a ridiculous situation.

The Flyers rumour may be a conscious leak from the Canucks to help raise the asking price; if it's on TSN, it came from somewhere. Whatever the case, we can safely assume that Mike Gillis remains unwavering in the return he expects to get for Roberto Luongo.

If Gillis is still asking for the world 10 days before a 48-game season is set to open, we have to assume that he wasn't lying when he said he's comfortable starting the season with both Luongo and Cory Schneider sharing the crease.

Back to the Botchford article:

The Canucks haven't waited this long to panic now. And they have Luongo onside. Among the many things Luongo's twitter account has revealed is the fact he keeps a close eye on what's happening in the league. He saw where this was going, and when he fully realized how slow-footed the Canucks approach was, he bought in to the idea of coming back.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that I am in full support of this idea (even if I did say a public goodbye to Strombone back in October). I don't think keeping both goalies is as big a deal as most make it out to be — this is a team full of character that is built to win, and there is no doubt that in a 48-game season having both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider gives them the best chance to do so. The free agent backup goalie cupboard is completely bare, and if the team gets off to its usual slow start — and, dare I say, if Schneider falters as a starter — the Canucks could find themselves in an unfavourable playoff position come spring. A good number of key players are also unrestricted free agents this summer, meaning this is likely the last crack at the Cup for the same squad that was a game away from it in 2011. Sure, they will contend next year as well, but it could be a different team with Mason Raymond, Manny Malhotra, Maxim Lapierre and Alex Edler all free to test the market this summer.

Despite what I might think, it is still more than likely that Luongo will be dealt, and after a whirlwind day the consensus still seems to be that with Dave Nonis at the helm, the Toronto Maple Leafs are even more of a frontrunner than they were before. The Flyers? Well, Paul Holmgren is at least having a "good chuckle" at the thought of acquiring another high-priced netminder.

What a day. What a saga. And to think, a week ago the league was locked out and none of this was happening. It's good to be back.