Canucks wave white flag: make deal with Devils for Schneider
Admitting defeat with goalie soap opera, Vancouver nets young centre Bo Horvat with New Jersey's No. 9 pick
Vancouver Canucks' goaltender Cory Schneider, who was called the team's goalie of the future, was traded Sunday to the New Jersey Devils.
Photograph by: Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press Files
NEWARK, NJ - The contract still sucks and the Vancouver Canucks still own it after the National Hockey League team admitted defeat today on the year-long Roberto Luongo trade mission and instead dealt starting goalie Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils.
It was a stunning end to a goaltending soap opera that became stranger by the month since Schneider replaced Luongo as the Canucks' starter in April of last year.
The Canucks used the first-round draft pick the Devils surrendered to chose highly-regarded London Knights centre Bo Horvat ninth overall today. With their own pick, Vancouver selected high-scoring Medicine Hat Tigers' winger Hunter Shinkaruk 24th, leaving the first round with two players for the first time since the Canucks drafted Daniel and Henrik Sedin in 1999.
But the impressive prospects do not obscure the uncomfortable truth that Canuck general manager Mike Gillis' solution to solving a festering goaltending problem was to trade the one who was younger, cheaper and - based on play - better.
Both Luongo and Schneider was shocked by the trade.
A lot of people in Vancouver were shocked that Gillis did not get more than one high draft pick for a 27-year-old goalie who has proven he can start in the NHL and may become a superstar.
"For the last year, we've explored every option that we could possibly have," Gillis said. "Things were heating up this week and we just felt we couldn't wait any longer with the situation we were in and felt for our organization. . . we had to do something to get this situation resolved, and this was the best opportunity we had.
"We have a situation we didn't want to drag into the summer. We just felt this was our best opportunity to get a couple of really good young players out of the first round of the draft."
Until a couple of days, the chances that Gillis would capitulate, keeping Luongo and trading Schneider, seemed tiny. But Schneider's name suddenly buzzing in trade speculation Saturday.
TSN insider Pierre LeBrun reported that the Canucks, stymied by Luongo's $64-million-contract, held a summit meeting before the draft and decided their only solution was to explore trading Schneider. And Gillis made it clear to reporters Saturday afternoon that he was listening to offers for his starter.
But there was still disbelief - and roars from an apporving New Jersey crowd here - when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the Devils had traded the ninth pick for Schneider.
The situation for the Canucks was part comedy, part horror. But beyond the embarrassing optics, the team must now convince Luongo that he's valued and wanted in Vancouver and can still be a trusted starter.
To that end, Canucks' owner Francesco Aquilini was en route late Sunday to Florida to meet with Luongo, 34.
"I think Roberto is a professional," Gillis told a crush of reporters at the back of the draft floor here. "I think he is an outstanding person. He's an outstanding goaltender. I anticipate him being one of the front-runners for the Sochi Olympics playing goal for Canada. I don't expect (the relationship between the Canucks and Luongo) to be a problem, but I haven't spoken to him yet.
"I need to have a conversation with him and explain what happened. We've already talked to his agent, Gilles Lupien. I'm not anticipating there being issues, and if there are we'll deal with them."
Schneider, who like everyone else had been waiting for Luongo to be traded, said the deal was "pretty stunning."
"I was hoping to spend the rest of my career in Vancouver," Schneider said in a television interview. "It's nice to have some resolution here so we can finally move on. I'm hoping for (Roberto) that he can come back to Vancouver and be the goalie we all know we can."
Gillis said he tried to get a player as well a draft pick but couldn't.
Good or bad, it's going to be a defining day for the Canucks' GM.
"I can't look into a crystal ball," Gillis said. "Obviously, we had an established player (in Luongo) with a no-trade clause who had to participate in a trade. We had a changing landscape with a lockout and new CBA. If I had a crystal ball, would we have done things quicker or earlier? I don't know. Maybe. But I don't have one. If you have one, let me know."
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