With the Vancouver Canucks once again poised for an extended playoff run, they will inevitably be riding Roberto Luongo down the stretch and deep into the spring. Now depending on whether Luongo pulls his annual dissapearing act, one talented young goaltender will continue to ride the pine anxiously awaiting his chance to shine. His name, Cory Schneider. If the Vancouver Canucks are succesful in their cup aspirations, their situation between the pipes will be settled. Roberto Luongo is under contract until 2021 (albeit backloaded) and will finally be appreciated by all those naysaying Canuck fans leaving young Schneider in a rather peculiar spot.
Drafted 24th overall in the 2004 NHL entry draft, Cory Schneider was designated as Vancouver's goalie of the future prior to the teams' acquisition of Roberto Luongo from the Panthers. While all eyes were on Roberto and the Canucks at the NHL level, Schneider quietly dominated the AHL level never posting a save percentage less than .910 or a GAA of more than 2.51 from 2007 to 2009. With Luongo one season away from unrestricted free agency, the Canucks were stuck at a crossroads. On one hand, the Canucks had a young up and comer destined to play in the NHL, and on the other they had an established star awaiting an extension. Vancouver made their decision inking Luongo to a long term deal that was heavily backloaded set to take the superstar into retirement. As soon as it was announced the question needed to be asked, what will the Canucks do with Schneider? With Schneider still property of the Canucks for a few more seasons it was decided that he would play apprentice to Luongo and become the net minder's back up.
Fast-forward to today. Roberto Luongo is having a typical season by his standards leading the Canucks to the top of the NHL standings. When he falters, Schneider is consistently there to pick him up as he has been providing steady if not spectacular play in net. At this stage of Schneider's career he also stands at a crossroads. He has proven he is capable of being a #1 goalie in the NHL but knows his opportunity might not be with Vancouver. Because of Luongo's contract it is highly unlikely that the Canucks are able to move him, leaving Schneider to remain in a back up role. At 25 years old he is reaching the prime of his career and if I'm correct, will express interest in leaving the Canucks organization in search of a starting job on another team. Approaching and at the deadline we know Vancouver received many calls about their budding star but never seriously considered trading him just yet as insurance to a Luongo choke job. But if the Canucks do win the Stanley Cup or lose not because of Luongo, there no longer remains an excuse to not trade Schneider and there will no doubt be a long list of interested teams.
Where do the Leafs come in? Well the goaltending situation needs no explanation here in Toronto. Not since Belfour have the Leafs had a sure fire #1 goaltender. Though Reimer and Gustavsson have shown glimpses, both players do not look like long term solutions to the goaltending problems. If I'm Brian Burke, I will most definitely be calling Mike Gillis about how much it would take to pry Schneider out of Vancouver. With a top 10 pick in this years entry draft seeming like a lock, the leafs will gain another trade piece in preparation of submitting an offer. In my opinion, a deal involving the likes of James Reimer, Nazem Kadri and including the1st round pick represents appropriate value in exchange for Schneider. Though Schneider has yet to prove he can handle the reigns as a #1 goalie the upside is definitely there. Though it is a high risk high reward scenario, the potential for a number one goalie for the next ten years could bring a stability not seen in Toronto for years. If the trade route is not explored, Schneider's RFA status exposes him to the possibility of an offer sheet. While I personally view offer sheets as an underused and under valued part of the CBA I do not believe Burke will jump at the opportunity.
I can confidently say that I do not believe Cory Schneider will be a Vancouver Canuck come next season. Whether it is the Maple Leafs or the Lightning, Schneider will find a home and will flourish as top goaltender in this league. All he needs is an opportunity.