By Igor Tsipenyuk
The highest priority for the New Jersey Devils leading up to the 2014-15 season is getting Cory Schneider a contract extension. Schneider will make $4.5 million in the final year of the 3 year, $12 million contract he signed with Vancouver before being traded to New Jersey at the 2013 draft. The Devils have a history of letting key players test the market and eventually letting them leave to another team. In some cases they leave for division rivals. With the price they paid (9th overall draft pick), letting Schneider start the new season without a long term extension should be a cause for concern for the organization especially with so many teams potentially looking to fill their starting goalie position, or even looking to upgrade their current crop.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a hard time making playoff runs with Marc-Andre Fleury in the crease since their back to back cup final appearances in 2008 and 2009. Fleury’s stats have been very concerning the last few years. In the 36 playoff games he played in, Fleury went 17-18 allowing 112 goals on 978 shots (.885 Save %). Keep in mind Fleury lost his starting job to Tomas Vokoun in last year’s playoffs after only 4 games. With his contract expiring the same time as Schneider’s, the Penguins can upgrade their goalie without losing any assets. The Penguins have a lot more to offer a goalie looking to win a cup than the Devils do especially with star players like Crosby and Malkin in the lineup. Goal support won’t be an issue on most nights either.
Minnesota has one of the most interesting goalie stories this year. Josh Harding started the year off great going 18-7-3, but sadly had to stop playing for health reasons. He was getting a majority of the starts and playing much better than Niklas Backstrom, who was having a terrible year until he got injured about a month after Harding stopped playing. Their goalies to end the season were Darcy Kuemper, a 23 year old who put up very respectable numbers in 26 games, and Ilya Bryzgalov, who was acquired from Edmonton. As of today, Backstrom has two years remaining on his contract, Harding has one more, Kuemper will be a restricted free agent and Bryzgalov will be an unrestricted free agent. It is safe to say that this goalie corral will continue into next season. If Schneider reaches the free agency market, he might be getting phone calls from fellow country men Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
The St. Louis Blues will be looking for a new goalie this offseason. They currently have Ryan Miller and Bryan Elliot in net, but both are going to be unrestricted free agents this summer. If Ryan Miller decides to sign somewhere else then the Blues can sign Elliot to a low cap contract and wait for Schneider to become available. They have a few American players themselves to try and convince Cory to come to other side of the Mississippi.
The truth is playoff teams don’t need to do much convincing, especially not powerhouses like St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
Bubble teams like the Devils will be lining up to sign Cory Schneider, especially those that are just a goalie away from making some noise.
The first team that comes to mind is the New York Islanders. The Islanders are moving to a new arena after next season and are essentially missing that number one goalie. Depending on how they play next season, they can make a good case for Cory to cross the Hudson. This will be the move that hurts the Devils the most. An up and coming division rival stealing their goalie away would send the team back to the Micky Mouse era.
Vancouver traded Schneider to alleviate their goalie controversy. It turns out it didn’t help much. Roberto Luongo was traded less than a year later. The Canucks do not have a solidified starter and could try to get Cory back to where he started his career. Who knows how much Schneider enjoyed his time there.
Time for Action
Lou Lamoriello will have to strongly consider trading Schneider if they can not reach an agreement before the season starts.
**All salary figures courtesy of capgeek.com
**All stats courtesy of nhl.com