Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Trading Goalies


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?

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34 Responses to “Trading Goalies”
  1. peanutflower says:

    I don’t even know how to answer this question. The “fans” and those who fancy themselves mainstream media journalists have already packed Luongo’s bags for him. Schneider has played, what, 60 games in the NHL max? Luongo has played hundreds. The problem with Luongo is not his abilities as a goaltender, it’s living in the fishbowl. I’m not sure he’s as mentally strong as Cory is. I don’t know what the CAnucks should do. Who says Schneider won’t ask for a trade anyway? Who in their right mind would want to be a goalie in Vancouver?

  2. daniel says:

    They’ll maybe do a Avery deal? pay half of is salary the next 10 years to another team…

    • trev says:

      That’s not allowed under the CBA unless you have a guy in the minors and you call him up and he’s claimed. And if you do, then you’re not only paying half the salary but it goes against your cap too. This is much worse than just burying Lu in the minors.

  3. Richard says:

    Cory being the best goalie to win the game is a psychological play. It may be working. Coach says “I think this guy is actually better” and then your offensive production becomes a fraction of what it was, on home ice. It’s got to be playin on the minds of the Kings – just as Vancouver start to get their offense going, the LA offense is getting weaker and weaker.

    People are too quick to dismiss Luongo, a goalie who had a 1.50 GAA at home in last years’ SCF. They blame him for not winning the cup last year, when in reality, the blame, if any, should be on AV – Schneider should have started Game 4, IMO.

    If a team wants to trade for Schneider, they will need to give up a ton. Tampa are one of the teams I’ve heard talked about as looking for a netminder. If they want Schneider, then Stamkos, Hedman, and Ballard, at a minimum, must be part of the deal.

    The best way the Canucks could trade Luongo, if they so wish, I feel, would be to trade Luongo + $7 million (the total for the final 4 years on his deal, effectively buying him out at 39).

    Fleury has looked poor this offseason – how about Luongo and Bitz for Sid and Geno? :P

  4. Freeze says:

    If the next CBA comes with a contract amnesty exemption or something similar, I’m thinking they get off scott free.

  5. Tom says:

    1) No amendment to a contract is permitted under this CBA. They cannot trade Luongo and pick up part of his salary.

    2) They can waive Luongo, send him to the minors and then recall him. If he is claimed – an “Avery” deal – the Canucks are on the hook for $2.5 MM a year for the next ten years. Trading him is a much better option.

    There is zero chance this will happen. They are not going to take that cap hit for a decade just to give away a good player.

    3) The idea of an amnesty is also a non-starter. It probably won’t be in the CBA anyway, but even if it is, it won’t happen in time to factor into the Canuck decision. And even if it was in time, the Canucks aren’t buying out Luongo. They aren’t going to give him $25 MM just to get rid of him.

    He’s a really good goalie! They can probably trade him – if he is willing – because he is good despite the length of his contract. The contract on an annual basis is not terrible.

    This is not hard to figure out. To put it simply: “Would you rather have Luongo and the second overall pick in this year’s draft or would you rather have Schneider?”

    The difference between the two goalies is not nearly as big as the difference between what each will bring in a trade. How can trading Luongo be right?

    • Roberto says:

      This is a weak draft year. I would rather move Luongo and Ballard, give Schneider Ballard’s money, and spend the extra $$ (after raises are handed out) on bolstering up the defense.

    • Rajeev says:

      If Van can get the No. 2 pick for Schneider, Gillis will be leaping for joy. Who knows with the clown show that is the Columbus franchise, but even if Van has to throw in their first rounder pick, that would be a great deal. Grigorenko is going to be a star. Van can let him develop in Quebec for another year, and he’ll be taking off when the Sedins start to slow down.

  6. speeds says:

    I’d be very surprised if Schneider is worth anywhere near the 2nd OV pick. 1 year of Schneider vs. 7 years of a top prospect, I don’t even think it’s close.

    Unless CLB got him signed to a longer term extension, at a favorable rate, I don’t even think they would consider it.

  7. Matt says:

    I would like to see a fair minded assessment of Gillis’s trades, draft picks, and signings.

    What perplexes me is the apparent disconnect between coach and GM.

    As an example, presumably Booth was acquired with a mind to play him on the second line. Did Gillis and his scouts bother to watch any FLA games or just Sports Centre highlights from 08-09? It became immediately apparent upon the winger’s arrival that he and Kesler have incompatible (i.e almost identical) styles. Playing Booth with the twins – for the first time ever – in the final two games was like waving the white flag of defeat on this trade. Oh well, only three more years at 4.25.
    Now only if they had a heady centreman who sees the ice well …oh wait, it’s too early to judge the Hodgson trade.

    Ballard was acquired at considerable cost and attached to an onerous contract. Yet Vignault has never trusted him, dolling out his minutes with an eye dropper. Who knew AV doesn’t like D men who turn the puck over? I guess Gillis forgot to ask. Perversely, facing elimination in game 4 (with a healthy D corps) Ballard probably played his most minutes as a Canuck. This is called a ‘game plan’.

    Gragnani was supposed to help the moribund PP but was discovered to be such a defensive liability that he didn’t dress for any game that mattered. But that +10 looked so good!

    Kassian was supposed to add size and grit but was seat belted to the bench in the playoffs and finally was not dressed for Game 5. He is a very young player but deadline acquisitions are usually intended to at least participate in the playoff run.

  8. Thomas Pratt says:

    I was waiting until the series was over to post my thought. I’m not so certain the gulf between what the two goalies bring is going to be that great. Schneider has one year left before he becomes a UFA, so any team trading for him is going to want to work out a multi year extension. That should be for market value for a starter, and it seems to me gives him a de facto limited movement clause. I suspect for that reason Columbus is out. Why would a good young starter agree to be there during a rebuild?

    If you assume his new deal will be for something below $4,75, the offer sheet compensation is a 1st and a 3rd. Anything more than that would be a bonus. Lu is a top tier starter and should bring that sort of return as well.

    I lean toward Schneider, but it is far from an easy choice. Who knows how Schneider would cope with a starter’s workload? The need for a proven backup would eliminate any cap savings over Luongo. I just think Schneider has a chance to be a better goalie longer than Luongo

    But, assuming CBA neogiations drag past July 1, it’s going to very, very difficult for Gillis to address goalkeeping or any other team need.

  9. Matt says:

    “The question is not “Who is better? Schneider or Luongo?” The proper question is “Which trade will make the Canucks better?””

    This analysis fails to account for fan psychology and the fact that a professional sports franchise is an entertainment product not a logicians think tank. The proper question is “Which trade has the appearance to fans of making the Canucks better?”

    You’re telling them you’re going to win the Cup with the goalie who was not your first choice when it really mattered because Grigorenko will be a star in a few years? Can’t sell it.

    • Tom says:

      Can’t sell what? I could care less about appearances or fan psychology.

      Do you honestly think there is any chance the Canucks will lose revenues selling their entertainment product no matter what they do? As long as they consistently win and consistently ice a contender the cash will roll in.

      The team should not listen to the fans. Most fans don’t have a clue. They assume crazy trades are possible, they ignore the constraints delivered up by the CBA and they think the unimportant is important. Teams looking at a raft of empty seats night after night have to do things – and often make mistakes – to try to get people into the building.

      Doing something to satisfy the fans or the media is the last thing I want my GM to do. I want him to make decisions designed to keep the team in contention indefinitely.

      If the fans insist on Schneider over Luongo and it turns out to be a mistake, will we accept this from Gillis, “I wish now that I traded Schneider when I could have gotten (fill in star’s name) for him, but I dealt Luongo because that is what the fans wanted.”

      This is Mike’s call. Either way, he carries the can for it. Not us.

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