Could the Canucks move Schneider and keep Luongo?
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s a classic proverb that I’m sure Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis doesn’t want to hear at the moment. The trade deadline came and went and Roberto Luongo remains a Vancouver Canuck. It’s certainly not for lack of effort on Gillis’ part who has been trying to deal Luongo for what is quickly closing in on a calendar year.
The Canucks have been hoping that as time passes, Luongo would become a more attractive option for another NHL team. The 2012 draft gave way to free agency, but nothing occurred. After the lockout there was optimism that his services could be required for a team getting off to a slow start, but once again to no avail. The trade deadline was the last hope for the time being, but Vancouver remains stuck with two quality starters and only one net that needs filling.
For all the talk about trading Luongo, there hasn’t been any talk about possibly moving Cory Schneider instead. Now logically, it probably wouldn’t make sense to do so since Schneider is younger, signed to a cheaper more flexible contract, and many will argue better than Luongo. But the Canucks are running out of conventional options.
Vancouver could buy Luongo out over the summer, but that would cost the organization between $30 and $40 million and then he would be free to sign anywhere he wished. Good luck convincing an owner to spend all that money only to leave the door open for that player to come back and burn you with another team.
They could always just put him on waivers, but the odds of a team claiming him and that contract are slim, even without having to give anything up. However, if for some reason a team did decide to take the bait, the Canucks of course wouldn’t get anything in return. You would think if they were going to do that they may be better off to eat some of his salary in some type of a trade and then at least get some compensation.
Finally, they could continue to try and trade him this summer, but it’s not like his contract is going to get any more appealing. He has a cap hit of $5.3 million until the year 2022 and organizations fear those types of deals like the plague or the word concussion. Not to mention that come the summer teams will have the opportunity to sign a free agent goalie to a contract that is more manageable for their organization. The current unrestricted free agent group is also looking pretty good when it comes to netminders. Anton Khudobin, Ray Emery, Jimmy Howard, Nikolai Khabibulin, Jose Theodore, Niklas Backstrom, Peter Budaj, Chris Mason, Tim Thomas, Evgeni Nabokov, Mike Smith, and Thomas Greiss are some notable goalies who as of now will be UFA’s in the summer.
So let’s play Devil’s Advocate and see what the argument is for Vancouver to deal Schneider and keep Luongo. The good thing for the Canucks is that Luongo has been extremely professional throughout this whole ordeal and a good team-mate. The relationship shouldn’t be damaged beyond repair and Luongo indicated recently that he loves the city and just wants the chance to resume being a starter. If Vancouver did pull a 180, friction between the team and Luongo shouldn’t be a major problem.
Schneider should also fetch a better price on the trade market because he only has a $4 million cap hit for the next two seasons after this one. It was rumoured that the Canucks only wanted two second round picks and Ben Scrivens from the Leafs right before the deadline. They could get a lot more for Schneider and use those players to continue to bolster an already powerhouse squad or add them to their farm system.
The thing that often gets lost in this shuffle is that Luongo just turned 34 and is still a very good goalie. He has a career .919 save percentage with 62 shutouts and has taken the Canucks to within one game of the Stanley Cup. Let’s not forget his gold-medal winning performance in the 2010 Olympics. The drop-off from Schneider would be minimal at best and Luongo has the edge when it comes to experience. It’s easy to forget that Schneider has only appeared in 92 career games and hasn’t played in more than 33 in a season so far in his brief career. Looking at just this season, Schneider’s numbers have been better than Luongo’s, but the difference in shots they have faced is interesting. Schneider is averaging two more shots against a game with 27.45, compared to Luongo’s 25.35 per contest. However, the more challenging stops are being made by Luongo with an average shot distance of 33.56 ft, versus Schneider’s 35.72.
Whoever Vancouver puts in net, they have the aid of one of the strongest defense corps and maybe the best top four in the NHL. Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Jason Garrison, and Dan Hamhuis are all locked up for the foreseeable future and would be a great insurance policy for an aging goaltender like Luongo. With that type of team in front of him, Luongo wouldn’t have to be great to win, just solid.
If the Canucks want to keep Schneider because he is younger, keep in mind goalies tend to typically retain their skill sets for longer than skaters. Just recently Tim Thomas had one of the best seasons ever for a goalie and won the Vezina, Conn Smythe, and Stanley Cup at the age of 37 with the Boston Bruins. The problem with Luongo is his contract and not his declining play. He could easily continue to perform at a high level well into his late 30’s much like Martin Brodeur, Ed Belfour, Patrick Roy, or Dominik Hasek.
Vancouver signed Luongo to this deal in 2009 with the intention of having him play out at least the majority of it. Having Schneider develop into a top flight goaltender was just a nice bonus. The Canucks should be better prepared than any team to deal with Luongo’s contract because they negotiated it, and they can make a few moves to give them some flexibility if they so choose. Vancouver could buy out the contracts of Keith Ballard and David Booth this summer to save themselves nearly $9M of cap space per year.
With all that being said, it would be extremely unlikely for the Canucks to pull off a bold manoeuvre like dealing Schneider and keeping Luongo, even though it certainly would be feasible. With the salary cap you have to think outside the box to make things work sometimes, and retaining Luongo would fall into that category. The longer this drags on the more both goalies will start to get perturbed, no matter how they portray themselves on the exterior.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @amato_mike
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