In February of 2008, on the eve of the NHL trade deadline, Canucks GM Dave Nonis was in serious talks with the Tampa Bay Lightning for Brad Richards. Though the deal fell through, Darren Dreger later reported that Tampa Bay's asking price included at least one of Alex Edler, Ryan Kesler, or Luc Bourdon, as well as Cory Schneider. Canuck fans hungry for a superstar center (ironic, now) were disappointed when Richards went to Dallas instead. Fan outcry centered around the Canucks' unwillingness to trade Schneider, the goaltending prospect thought to be peaking in trade value.
As we enter 2011, the Canucks still retain the young goaltender, now as solid an NHL backup as there is. Incredibly, his trade value has only continued to rise, but by now, this shouldn't be a surprise: Cory Schneider's been driving his asking price skyward for years. Now he's playing his way out of Vancouver.
Anyone with an ounce of wisdom has always known that Schneider won't be usurping the Canucks' starting job from Roberto Luongo. It became less likely when Luongo was named captain of the team, and even less likely when Luongo inked a twelve-year extension. Though Schneider may have the potential to be a number one goalie, circumstance has long dictated that the opportunity awaits him in another city.
Since Luongo arrived in the summer of '06, impatient, pessimistic fans have clamored for the Schneider trade to happen right away, before the 2004 26th overall draft pick inevitably joined the Canucks' long line of 1st-round failures. By the time Schneider joined the Moose in 2007, he was full of promise and value, having won titles with the US World Junior program as well as Boston College. But the fans, unconvinced that Schneider wouldn't simply be the next highly-touted prospect to hit the wall in the minors, only demanded a trade before he could bust.
Instead, the Canucks held onto him, and Schneider's great success in the AHL only made him more valuable. After some concerning initial struggles, Schneider excelled. In 2009, he was named a starter at the AHL All-Star game, and finished the year by winning the AHL equivalent of the Vezina and the Jennings. By the early 2010, many felt he was the best goalie not playing in the NHL.
And still, the Canucks neglected to trade Schneider. Said GM Mike Gillis, "There is no pressure to make a trade."
The Canucks have a long history of highly-touted prospects who shine in the AHL, then dim considerably in the big-leagues, however, and fans remained skeptical. So, in the summer of 2010, as Cory's entry-level contract expired, they clamored, again, for Frecklesnoot to get flipped. Trade him, they said, before he puts in shaky performances as Luongo's backup like the guys that preceded him, and thusly becomes no more valuable than they. But, when Schneider inked a two-year deal, one-way deal for $900,000 a season, little did anyone know he was merely plotting another value spike.
Schneider has performed remarkably at the NHL level. In 8 starts, he boasts a GAA of 2.38 and a save percentage of .923. Perhaps most impressive, however, is the Canucks' record in these starts: they're 7-0-2 with Cory between the pipes.
And, while the Canucks are a very good team, Schneider has still carried them to a few wins. Two starts ago, he led Vancouver to a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars, stopping 44 shots and being named the game's first star. He looked big, and despite a relentless Dallas attack, he looked calm. In fact, Schneider has looked calm in all his starts, responding to fan unease over his potential collapse with casual excellence.
Yet again, Cory Schneider has proved the doubters wrong. It took guts to sign that contract and accept the backup role, knowing a shaky season behind Luongo could really delay his opportunity to be a number one. But he believed in himself, and he's earned the belief of teammates and fans.
Schneider now has little else to prove; he is clearly ready for a starting gig. Having overcome all questions about his future in the NHL, the only one that remains is where he'll end up.
With his play and his agreeable deal, Schneider has given the Canucks maximum flexibility in making the eventual trade, as his affordable contract allows nearly any team to fit him, cap-wise, and its two-year length affords the Canucks plenty of time wait for the right deal.
That said, they don't have forever. Schneider's time in blue and green will likely come to an end sometime between now and when his contract is set to expire. But, thanks to his incredible play, the Canucks couldn't be in a better position to trade him. For the first time, after years of refusing to give in to demand, the fans aren't the ones trying to pry Schneider out of Vancouver.
Now it's other teams.