One of the most baffling themes of the past few seasons is the downfall of goaltender Cory Schneider. Since the beginning of the 2016-17, the one-time Jennings Trophy winner has seen his save percentage drop immensely. The chart below shows exactly how drastic his change in performance has really been.
|Games Started||GAA||Total Sv%||Even Strength Sv%||Short-Handed Sv%||Quality Starts %|
Not only have his save percentages dropped, but he’s also not turning in the number of quality starts (QS) he was known for in the first half of his career. Whether it be due to his recent string of injuries or the fact he is now 32 years old, Schneider isn’t the stud netminder he used to be.
After this season he’ll have three more years left on a seven-year, $42 million contract. This, coupled with his sharp decline in his play, makes moving on from him a tall task. General manager Ray Shero has three options: keep him, trade him, or buy him out. Each of these options has different benefits and consequences associated with them. This article will give you a good idea what each option entails.
The bottom line is it does not look as if Schneider is going to turn it around in New Jersey. Excluding last year’s playoff run, he owns a 0-17-3 record in his last 21 games while posting a .850 Sv%. Over this stretch, we’ve seen numerous soft goals and we’ve even seen goals where he’s scored on himself. He’s been given plenty of opportunities and just hasn’t been able to turn it around. You often hear how a “change of scenery,” would induce better play. In most cases that may just be an excuse, but in Schneider’s case, it truly has a great chance to apply.
Keeping Cory Schneider is simply not the answer. At this point, he isn’t even a backup option. Also, a $6 million a year backup goaltender isn’t a viable option.
Trading a player in an effort to get him off the books can prove to be a bit pricey. Components such as including valuable assets — such as draft picks or prospects — and retaining salary are both consequences of making such a trade. An example of this type of trade actually benefiting the Devils is the Marc Savard deal. The Devils were able to acquire a second-round pick (later traded to the Capitals for Marcus Johansson) for taking on an injured Marc Savard.
Another way to entice a team to take on Schneider’s expensive contract is by retaining salary. Retaining salary in a trade relates in some ways to a buyout, but you are able to be much more flexible. This flexibility can be very nice, but you are going to be paying a part of the contract for a period of time, along with possibly be giving up valuable assets.
Each of the two options above may enable the Devils to move on via trade. But as you can see, they will need to give up assets which directly interfere with their rebuilding effort. Another thing to consider is which teams are willing to take a flyer on the 32-year-old netminder. You need to do this while keeping in mind the upcoming free agent class includes names such as Sergei Bobrovsky and Mikko Koskinen.
If the Devils were to go this route, some teams that may be interested are the St. Louis Blues, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, and Ottawa Senators.
Buy Him Out
Buying a player out has its obstacles, but it is the only way to immediately release a player. However, the longer the player is signed for, the more of a penalty a buyout poses. Buying out a player is an exceedingly confusing activity. Luckily, CapFriendly.com has a helpful tool that simplifies what buying out Schneider AFTER the season would entail.
As it currently stands, a buyout would require the Devils to pay the final $18 million left on his deal. This $18 million would be spread across a six-year period, paying him $2 million a year. This would result in a cap saving of $4 million the first four years of the buyout, followed by a $2 million loss in the last two years of the buyout. Overall, a total savings of $6 million would occur. A simple break-down of what is explained above is organized in a chart just below.
After examining all the possible alternatives Shero has in dealing with a struggling Schneider, the common theme seems to be damage control. Which option allows you to fix the problem without giving up the most? The option that seems to best fit this mindset is the buyout.
Buying out Cory Schneider has both its benefits and consequences. But given the Devils cap situation — the second most current cap space in the NHL — the consequences of paying $2 million over six years is minimized. Plus, getting Schneider partially off the books gives the Devils extra money to spend right now. This can help expedite the process of their rebuild.
By trading him, assets that are valuable to have while going through a rebuild could be dealt. The whole objective of a rebuild is to stockpile assets and use them to your ability to form a winning team. By depleting this pool through a trade to get Schneider off the books when you can just buy him out for a smaller penalty just doesn’t add up.
Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how Shero handles this complex situation. Look for it to be a major storyline near the tradeline and during the offseason.