Mike Gillis had it all figured out: Roberto Luongo was the Vancouver Canucks' franchise goaltender with the lifetime contract, and Cory Schneider was expendable. That was three years ago.
A funny thing happened when Schneider became the man and got a new deal, while Luongo asked to be traded. But when Gillis couldn't find a taker for Luongo's massive contract, he remedied the Canucks' goaltending situation by trading Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the No. 9 pick in Sunday's NHL draft.
"There have been some intervening features that happened," Gillis said. "One of the provisions in the new CBA is to deal with long-term contracts and it is a changing landscape, it affected our opportunities and we had to do everything we have to do in the best way possible for our organization."
That meant trading the 26-year-old goaltender with two years left at a cap hit of $4 million US and holding onto the 34-year-old with eight years left at $5.33 million each. That's certainly not the way Schneider expected things to go.
"It was shocking," he said. "I didn't really know what to think. In the first few years I always sort of assumed that I was going to get dealt at some point. But then drafts and trade deadlines went by and nothing ever happened. With the extension last year I kind of felt, finally I had kind of gotten away from the trade rumours. But this is the game, the landscape changed with the CBA and the cap coming down and it kind of changed the parameters."
'It was shocking. I didn't really know what to think. In the first few years I always sort of assumed that I was going to get dealt at some point. But then drafts and trade deadlines went by and nothing ever happened. With the extension last year I kind of felt, finally I had kind of gotten away from the trade rumours. But this is the game...'—Former Canucks goalie Cory Schneider on being dealt
Having two compliance buyouts at his disposal gave Gillis another potential option, but that would've cost Canucks ownership two-thirds of the $40.57 million Luongo was owed over the rest of his contract. Even after the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning swallowed hard on big-ticket buyouts of Ilya Bryzgalov and Vincent Lecavalier, Gillis said it's not something general managers want to resort to.
"We looked at all of our alternatives, and it just wasn't a viable alternative," he said.
Choosing this alternative landed Vancouver London Knights centre Bo Horvat with the ninth pick. Horvat's career will undoubtedly always be linked to Schneider's, but that wasn't a major concern of his as he beamed with pride about being drafted.
"I don't feel any pressure, actually," Horvat said. "I think it's more exciting than anything. I'm just really happy to be part of the organization. I can't wait to get there and show them that I can be that guy, that they picked me at nine."
Likewise, Schneider goes to New Jersey to show that he should be a starting goaltender in the NHL after the fiasco he and Luongo went through with the Canucks.
"I don't think it was as bad as everyone made it out to be," Schneider said. "It wasn't like this was something that took over our team in any way. It was something Roberto and I had to deal with, but we're both professionals and we get along and we enjoy each other, so it wasn't as hard for us as maybe some other people. But I think ideally you'd like to have verification and a defined role on your team."
Luongo, whose only Twitter reaction Sunday night was a reference to his no-trade clause, now has that defined role in Vancouver. But Schneider might not in New Jersey, where 41-year-old future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur has one year left on his contract.
Brodeur said Schneider would have to fight him for the No. 1 job, though it sounds like the three-time Stanley Cup champion will at least start with that title.
"@Marty is still No. 1 goaltender," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said. "There's no question there. It's just a question of how much he can play to keep him at the top of his game."
Schneider feels like he's at the top of his game now, which made the trade even more surprising. Gillis didn't keep Schneider abreast of trade talks, and the goalie didn't expect that, either.
Even after signing a contract extension, Schneider knew it wasn't a guarantee he would be the starter forever.
"It's part of the risk you take signing a contract without a no-move [clause] or anything like that," Schneider said. "We sort of knew what the situation was and what it may end up coming to in terms of back-sliding assets and value and trying to do what's best for the team and this was always on the table."
Gillis knew as soon as the new CBA was ratified that it would be easier to trade Schneider than Luongo. Even in a landscape he called challenging, he finally did, though in the aftermath the Canucks' GM had plenty of questions to answer about whether he'd handle the situation differently if he could do it over again.
"I can't look into a crystal ball," Gillis said. "We had a changing landscape of the lockout with the new CBA. If I had a crystal ball, would we have done things quicker or earlier? I don't know, maybe."