Here’s Iain MacIntyre on the Vancouver goaltending situation after Alain Vigneault opted for Cory Schneider on Wednesday night:
With everything at stake, the Vancouver Canucks chose Wednesday to play the goalie who had the best chance of saving their season. Maybe you heard. It wasn’t the guy who has been the starter for six years, but the backup who should be the starter for the next six…
But Schneider wasn’t chosen to start only Game 4 of the first-round playoff series. He was chosen to start, period. It’s his team now. The toothpaste doesn’t go back in the tube on this one. The Canucks will try to trade Luongo and his 12-year, $64-million contract this summer. There is no other reasonable conclusion to draw from coach Alain Vigneault’s decision to go with his gut and leave Luongo on the bench as Vancouver faced elimination.
This reaction is exactly why I would have started Roberto Luongo on Wednesday night. I have confidence in him and he’s played well. I did not think it would make a significant difference – the series was probably lost anyway – and choosing Schneider was sure to create a huge distraction.
MacIntyre is wrong: The toothpaste can obviously be put back in the tube. What Vigneault has clearly done is decide he is going to ride Schneider through the rest of this series, but beyond that? Nothing has been settled. Nothing should be settled.
Even if we concede that Schneider is now the starting goalie, it does not mean that Luongo is the right player to be traded. In fact, trading Luongo will almost certainly make the team worse. As MacIntyre points out, the return for Luongo will be next to nothing. It may even be worse than nothing if the team is forced to take a player underperforming his contract in return. The starting goaltending will be marginally better, but Eddie Lack (or anyone else) is unlikely to match Schneider’s performance next year. Overall the goaltending will probably be worse next season no matter which one they trade.
The question is not “Who is better? Schneider or Luongo?” The proper question is “Which trade will make the Canucks better?” The difference between Luongo and Schneider is not much. Call it the difference between very good goaltending and excellent goaltending.
But the difference between what Luongo will bring in a trade and what the Canucks can get for Schneider is vast. At best, the return for Luongo will mostly be the difference between a very good starting goaltender and an excellent one along with, perhaps, a decent draft pick and some cap savings. At worst, the trade will include a poison pill of a contract and less cap room when Schneider gets his big raise.
On the other hand, a deal for Schneider with Columbus starts with the second overall pick this year. Vancouver would not have to take a player they did not want in exchange – in fact they might also be able to force the Blue Jackets to take a contract the Canucks don’t want (like Keith Ballard) to stay in the auction.
Are the Canucks better off with Luongo and the package Schneider will bring or are they better off with Schneider, period?