In today’s goalie news, we’ll focus on the waiving of a longtime New Jersey Devils goaltender, and drop in on a couple of happier stories from around the league.
Cory Schneider Waived
Today, the Devils announced something that has seemed like an inevitability for some time: they placed longtime goaltender Cory Schneider on waivers. Schneider, whom the team acquired at the 2013 NHL Draft for a pick that became Bo Horvat, has fallen to pieces in recent seasons, and general manager Ray Shero made the difficult decision to let the veteran try and find his form in the American Hockey League with the Binghamton Devils.
How Did Schneider Get Here
Schneider made a name for himself with the Vancouver Canucks some 2,986 miles from the Devils’ home arena. The Canucks drafted the Marblehead, Massachusetts native with the first pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, the fourth goalie off the board behind Al Montoya (New York Rangers), Devan Dubnyk (Edmonton Oilers) and Marek Schwarz (St. Louis Blues). Schneider was impressive enough at Phillips Academy Andover in his home state for the Canucks to take a chance on him despite the budding talents of a young Alex Auld.
Schneider’s potential came to fruition quickly, and he debuted in Vancouver during the 2008-09 season. Then in a tandem with Roberto Luongo, he played his first “full” season in 2010-11, and the duo won the Jennings Trophy thanks in part to Schneider’s 22 strong starts.
After his second and third seasons, the Canucks had a conundrum on their hands: Schneider was too good to remain a backup, but Luongo was entrenched as the starter, and his contract was difficult to move, or, as Luongo said it so eloquently at the time, “my contract sucks.”
Thus, the Canucks and the Devils arrived in the Devils’ home arena, the Prudential Center. None of the parties likely knew upon arrival that the venue would soon become Schneider’s home, but so it did, when the Devils surrendered their ninth overall pick (now Horvat, the newly-minted Canucks’ captain) to acquire the man they thought was their goalie of the future.
Early Promise, Sharp Decline
Schneider had a very strong first season with his new team, despite a poor record. He went 16-15-12, but had a save percentage (SV%) of .921 and a goals against average (GAA) of 1.97, to go along with 7.39 goals saved above average (GSAA). It was enough for the Devils to give Schneider the contract they now regret, a seven-year deal with an average annual value of $6 million.
But early returns were promising, as the following season was perhaps Schneider’s best. He started 68 games, had a .925 SV%, a 2.26 GAA, and 21.17 GSAA. It seemed like the contract would pay off and Schneider would remain a franchise goaltender. But injury after injury began to take their toll on Schneider, particularly affecting his lower body, in his hip and his groin.
A goalie without a strong base is no goalie at all, and the hip surgery he received at the close of the 2017-18 surgery began to spell the end for Schneider. Since then, he’s started 29 games and won just six of those, none of those wins (or even a quality start, for that matter) coming this season.
Shero’s Tough Decision
It came time for Shero to make a decision, and he made the hard one: waiving Schneider and sending him to the minor leagues. Head coach John Hynes faced the media to explain the team’s decision in the most careful way possible.
The way the schedule comes now, we didn’t see him getting into a lot of games in the next couple of weeks. When a player, particularly a goalie, if you’re not going to have an opportunity to play, it’s hard to get the game reps and confidence that you need… If he does clear waivers and go to Binghamton, it’s not the end of the road for us here.John Hynes on Cory Schneider
The future now for Schneider is uncertain. No team will claim his massive cap hit, so in the short term, he will play in Binghamton. The Devils get very minor cap relief as long as Schneider remains in the AHL, saving just over $1 million against the cap per season. A buyout could be in his future; however, Shero will need to decide whether extended suffering over the a longer term is preferable to paying the contract off in the next couple of seasons.
It is difficult to watch a once-great goaltender like Schneider arrive at the point where he cannot physically compete at the same level. Whatever Hynes’ platitudes, it will be a long road for him to return to the NHL; however, what a story it would be if he made it.
In other headlines, the Arizona Coyotes are one of the hottest teams in the NHL thanks in no small part to their impressive goaltending tandem. Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper have both been hot, trying to outduel one another, and last night was Raanta’s opportunity to shine.
Raanta and the Coyotes faced the rudderless Los Angeles Kings on Monday evening, and Raanta turned aside all 31 of the Kings’ shots, including eight on the power play. It was Raanta’s best start of the season so far, and his strongest performance since returning from the injury that devastated his 2018-19 season.
Goalie Gram: Schneider’s Four-Legged Future
Lest anyone feel too bad for Schneider, life doesn’t look like it’s all bad in Binghamton. The NHL shared a video of Binghamton Devils’ alternate captain Dakota Mermis giving piggyback rides to a group of four-legged friends.
Hopefully, they’ll keep the doggo gang around to welcome their new tendy. Binghamton’s next game is on Wednesday night, ironically against the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. It’s unclear yet whether Schneider will get the start, but if he does, we’ll cover it for you here in the Goalie News.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.