Last April, after a first-round flameout against the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis proclaimed that his club's new No. 1 goalie was Cory Schneider and that Roberto Luongo and his big, fat contract would be moved out of town. But it was Schneider who was traded to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for the ninth overall selection on Sunday.
NEWARK, N.J. - The big move made by Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis on draft day left Roberto Luongo uneasy that he was not traded and the fan base angered about the return for Cory Schneider.
Last April, after a first-round flameout against the Los Angeles Kings, Gillis proclaimed that his club's new No. 1 goalie was Schneider and that Luongo and his big, fat contract would be moved out of town.
With the draft pick, the Canucks chose two-way forward Bo Horvat, a 6-foot, 211-pound gamer who won the OHL playoff MVP with 16 goals in 21 games in the London Knights championship run this spring. Horvat, of Rodney, Ont. is a tremendous prospect, but it was strange that Gillis could not pry a roster player from the Devils, too.
"Yeah, we tried to do that, but it wasn't there for us," said Gillis, when asked if he tried to get a NHL roster player in a package for Schneider.
It seems odd Gillis could not have received some immediate help. The Canucks are a team that is ready to win now, and that window is closing, not opening.
The Los Angeles Kings received in return Matt Frattin, a second-round pick and a backup netminder in Ben Scrivens from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goalie Jonathan Bernier, who has 62 games of NHL experience.
At the trade deadline, the Ottawa Senators were able to pluck rookie Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Ben Bishop and his 45 games of NHL experience. Even two years ago, the Washington Capitals traded goaltender Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for first- and second-round picks.
Schneider is better, but he didn't yield much more than the Bernier, Bishop or Varlamov.
Sure, it's a different climate out there these days. And everybody knew that Gillis had to create some salary cap space. But there were only four teams in on the Schneider sweepstakes in the Devils, the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets. The price for the Oilers and Flames was higher, but that's always a difficult trade to make with a division rival.
There was no doubt Gillis was on edge about this move. His ownership would not approve a costly compliance buyout on Luongo, so Gillis felt this was a move he had to make on Sunday.
"Because the salary cap has been set at a point that is much different than it was," he said. "We had a situation we didn't want to drag into the summer and continue on and we just felt this is our best opportunity to get a couple of really good young players out of the first round of the draft. We've traded picks historically."
It's difficult to believe Gillis when he stated that he began thinking about trading Schneider instead of Luongo back when the new CBA was ratified in January. If that was the case then why had Luongo or Schneider not been presented with the possibility?
Luongo, who usually is omnipresent on his twitter account, went silent on Sunday. He must wonder what the heck transpired. He also recently put up for sale his downtown $4.2-million Vancouver condominium. It hasn't sold yet. So he could move back in.
Gillis talked to Luongo's agent Gilles Lupien on Sunday, but had not discussed the development with Luongo. Instead, Canucks owner Francisco Aquilini met with Roberto Luongo at his South Florida home on Sunday afternoon.
Remember Luongo's disappointment at the trade deadline? Remember when he said his long-term contract, that still has nine seasons with a salary cap hit of $5.33-million, "sucks" after the Canucks failed to trade him?
But Gillis wasn't worried about Luongo's reaction to Schneider being the one traded.
"He signed a long-term contract with our club for a lot of money and was very happy to do it and I don't anticipate there being issues, but I haven't spoken to him," Gillis said.
"I need to have a conversation with him, though, and explain what happened. We've already talked to his agent, Gilles Lupien, and I'm not anticipating there being issues, but if there are, we'll deal with him."
Tim WharnsbyTim's worked the sports beat at The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun, specializing in Canada's one true sporting obsession - hockey. He knows the players, the coaches, the backroom boys and most importantly, the fans. That's what he brings to his stories. Knowledge, fairness and understanding are trademarks of a Wharnsby story. That's what you will get here as he writes for CBCSports.ca.
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