Canucks consider trading goalie Cory Schneider and keeping Roberto Luongo
Schneider a far more valuable trade asset than the deal-killer 9-year, $40 million agreement with Luongo
NEW YORK – Brace yourself.
The Vancouver Canucks’ bizarre, year-long quest to trade their goalie may finally be ending – and the guy more likely to leave is suddenly not the netminder the National Hockey League team has been trying to move.
Canuck general manager Mike Gillis, speaking on the eve of Sunday’s entry draft in New Jersey, did nothing to quell a wildfire of speculation that the team is working on trading starting goalie Cory Schneider.
For at least a year, Gillis has tried unsuccessfully to trade deposed starter Roberto Luongo. It appears Plan B may be to trade Schneider, the 27-year-old with a palatable contract and huge upside.
Gillis told reporters he’s listening to offers on his young star.
“I think he’s a very good, young player,” Gillis said of Schneider, who went 17-9-4 during this past lockout-shortened regular season, posting a goals-against average of 2.11 and save percentage of 92.7. “Teams are after good, young players all the time. I’m not surprised. We get calls all the time about our young players and he’s one of them.”
Until today, Gillis had always made it clear he planned to keep Schneider.
But asked directly if Schneider is going anywhere, Gillis said this afternoon: “I don’t know. We’ll see. We’re listening to proposals. You never say never about anything. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. You have to listen. If you’re in any business, you have to listen to what the proposals may be and act accordingly, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Given his ability, age and contract (two more years at $4 million), Schneider is a far more valuable trade asset than Luongo, whose contract calling for more than $40 million over the next nine years has been a deal killer.
But given the Canucks’ often-stated preference for Schneider, who has outperformed Luongo the last two seasons in what has become a goaltending soap opera in Vancouver, it’s hard to imagine Gillis now trying to sell fans on a Schneider trade that would return Luongo to No. 1 status.
What are the Canucks supposed to say to Luongo? Never mind, we were wrong and really need you?
And how would Luongo react to such a plot twist? Earlier this week, he tweeted that he’d play for free just to watch new coach John Tortorella deal with the media in Vancouver. But, of course, Luongo thought he’d never play again for the Canucks.
He felt the same way a year ago, but hindered Gillis’ attempt to deal him by refusing last summer to waive his no-trade clause for anyone but the Florida Panthers. Gillis also misjudged the market for Luongo, believing a goalie who may already be declining with age could fetch prime assets in a trade.
A buyout for Luongo, which would cost owner Francesco Aquilini more than $27 million, just doesn’t seem feasible. Even with a salary-cap crisis looming, the Canucks haven’t even decided whether to pay off expensive depth defenceman Keith Ballard, whose buyout price tag is a relatively modest $5.6 million over four years.
Asked if he has authority to buy out players, Gillis cryptically answered “perhaps.”
“It’s a changing landscape that you have to adjust to,” he explained of the amnesty buyouts that could flood the NHL market with appealing free agents. “Right now, there’s a lot of stuff in the air, a lot of balls in the air. And included in that is compliance buyout situations. You just have to try to stay fluid and react to things as they come your way.”
The Canucks are due to pick 24th in the first round of Sunday’s draft. They do not possess a second-round pick after Gillis packaged it with prospect Kevin Connauton to “rent” Dallas Stars’ centre Derek Roy at the NHL trading deadline in April.
If he trades Schneider, it’s expected the Canucks will want a high draft pick or picks to be part of the compensation.
“We’re going to see where it goes,” Gillis said of trade discussions. “Obviously, we’re listening to proposals. I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out, but we’re certainly listening.”
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