The New Jersey Devils placed goaltender Cory Schneider on waivers, which he unsurprisingly cleared. The plan for the organization was to reassign Schneider to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Devils and give his NHL position to Louis Domingue.
It is a move that general manager Ray Shero certainly would not have predicted at the start of the season. Schneider is still playing on the large contract he was given in 2015 with the intention that he would be the Devils’ long-term starting goalie. At that time, he was signed to a seven-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $6 million.
Fans on opposing teams may have read about Schneider being on waivers and immediately were excited about the prospect of him being claimed by their preferred front office. Unfortunately for them, there was no way that was going to happen.
No teams are more desperate for a backup goaltender than the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights. Even they will surely stay clear of Schneider. Both clubs have the same misfortune of being unable to win a game unless their No. 1 goalie is between the pipes.
The Leafs recently sent their backup Michael Hutchinson through waivers and assigned him to the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. That setup Kasimir Kaskisuo being recalled to the Maple Leafs. The Golden Knights have thus far stuck with Malcolm Subban despite him being 0-3-2.
Both clubs would certainly covet a capable backup, who could help give Frederik Andersen and Marc-Andre Fleury more games off, while also providing their teammates confidence that a game is still winnable without their starting stopper. Andersen played 60 games last season and has already begun this campaign playing in 17 games. The most starts this season belong to Fleury, along with David Rittich, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Martin Jones, who have all had 18 games of action.
Though there was a time when many teams including the Leafs were interested in acquiring Schneider, that era has long passed. (from ‘NHL Trade Rumors: Toronto Maple Leafs Interested in Cory Schneider?,’ International Business Times, 2/7/2012) He is no longer the same caliber of player who joined the Devils from the Vancouver Canucks. This season, Schneider is 0-4-1 in New Jersey with a 4.59 goals-against average and a .852 save percentage.
What’s in Store for Schneider Now?
The fans that still desire Schneider’s services do so based on the marquee name that once meant something in the NHL. Last season, he played just 26 games in the league and eight additional ones with Binghamton. Even then, he managed to keep his save percentage just barely above .900.
Schneider’s poor play wasn’t even the only reason why no clubs put in a waiver claim for him. No general manager will want to pick up his massive cap hit. Many teams cannot even afford Schneider’s contract, even if they wanted him. According to CapFriendly, Toronto currently has $0 in projected cap space while Vegas has just $1,262,546. Teams would have to remove one or more players from their current rosters in order to accommodate the incoming goaltender.
Not only is Schneider’s AAV less than desirable, but his contract also gives him a “no-trade clause.” If a team was willing to take a risk on the 33-year-old, they would immediately find themselves in the same position of Shero and the Devils — having to pay a goalie who they’d prefer no longer be a part of their organization. Teams are too savvy to make such an elementary error. This is the cruel business of sports.
Domingue, at age 27, will be given an opportunity to demonstrate why he should be a mainstay with the Devils. The Devils traded for Domingue at the start of the month, prying him from the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, where he was playing with their affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. The Devils gave up a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft to get him.
Going forward, the Devils are banking on the combination of Mackenzie Blackwood and Domingue providing them with quality goaltending. This means that Schneider’s future in the NHL could be in jeopardy.
The Devils’ Goaltending Depth
The Devils have four other goalies of note in the organization. They are Evan Cormier, Giles Senn, Akira Schmid, and Cole Brady. Cormier, 22, was drafted by the Devils in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft. He’s split time this season between Binghamton and the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder.
Senn, at age 23, was drafted by New Jersey in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. He has started seven games for Binghamton. Senn is still adjusting to the North American game after previously playing in the Swiss National League.
Schmid is only 19 and is a very interesting prospect for the Devils. He was also a fifth-round pick, but made his mark in the USHL as one of the best at his position in the league last season. In his six games with the Omaha Lancers this season he has posted 3.01 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage.
Brady is also playing in the USHL. He’s between the pipes for the Fargo Force. Brady is 18 and unsigned by the Devils. They own his rights after selecting him in the fifth round of the 2019 draft. Brady is expected to play in the NCAA for the Arizona State University Sun Devils next season.
What It Means for Schneider’s Future
With a great deal of depth throughout the organization, Schneider’s return to the NHL becomes even more difficult. This puts pressure on New Jersey’s executives to decide what they want to do with him in the offseason. Potentially, Shero may want to buy him out.
If the Devils did buyout Schneider’s contract, they would owe him 2/3 of his remaining salary. With two years left, he would be paid eight million dollars not to play for the franchise. NHL rules dictate that to find the cap hit for the Devils, Schneider’s eight million dollars gets evenly distributed over double the remaining contract years. That means the Devils would have a two million dollar cap hit each year for four seasons.
If Shero buys out the remainder of Schneider’s contract, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of his career. In fact, it could help him return to the NHL. Schneider would be free to sign with any team for as little as the league minimum. There’s a good chance that a franchise may be willing to take a chance on Schneider when the price is right.
Schneider himself, can’t be thinking this way. He has to prove his worth by rediscovering his form while in the AHL. He will play against easier opposition, which has the potential to help him play up to his skill level. If Schneider could begin posting better stats, he may get back to his NHL net before the season’s end. This is especially true if injury plagues the Devils.
Eyes will now be on the creases in New Jersey and Binghamton. Hopefully, the Devils are able to find the success and consistency that they’ve been searching for.
A former scout and referee turned writer, covering the game of hockey wherever it’s played.