Earlier today, Harrison Mooney wrote a straight-to-the-point post about goaltender Cory Schneider at Puck Daddy. It's entitled, "Cory Schneider won't sign extension until Devils guarantee him 60 games." Schneider never actually says that but in the NJ.com article by the Star Ledger's Rich Chere that Mooney cites in his post, he reasonably read in between the lines to highlight what Schneider wants. He wants assurance that he's going to be the #1 for the New Jersey Devils. If not, then he won't stick around. He probably was a lot less diplomatic and a lot more candid internally with Lou.
I'm actually glad he came right out and said this. The Devils can't actually sign Schneider to an extension until
September 15, 2015 July 1, 2014, when the 2014-15 term on signed player contracts begin. (Update #2: I was initially wrong on this, thanks to everyone who told me otherwise. That's why keyboards have delete keys, I guess.) So that there haven't been much talks isn't a surprise. Why talk if nothing can actually be done? Yet, Schneider made it clear that he does want to stay - he just wants to not share the net. He's right to be frustrated with what happened last season. He was far and away superior to Martin Brodeur in net at stopping pucks, but he essentially split starts with him. Rich Chere was smart to asked him whether the issue had to do with Brodeur; but Schneider's response means to me that it's more about the workload than anything personal. One could argue going public isn't always a wise move when dealing with eventual negotiations with Lou (I highly doubt Lou's going to come out publicly and say he's going to get it); but I think Schneider is right to know what his role is before he considers staying in New Jersey.
That all said, I have to ask the question: Will Schneider get such a guarantee? Maybe, but it may not exactly be for 60 or more games. There is the possibility of injury that could keep Schneider from playing that much. There is the possibility of poor play. Schneider has a 5-on-5 save percentage of 92.85% over the last three seasons per Hockey Analysis, which is one of the higher percentages in the league. But even very good goalies can have bad runs of play and that could mean lesser starts if it's prolonged and if the #2 guy does well. The biggest sticking point will be the schedule. Last season, the Devils had 22 back-to-back sets. In 2011-12, they had 15. In 2010-11, they had 20. While Schneider can handle playing on consecutive nights - he did it last season on a few occasions - it's generally not a good idea to do it on a regular basis. The schedule for next season won't come out for a while but recent history suggests the Devils will play a significant number of back-to-back sets again given their shorter travel distance. Throw in those sets in busy weeks and there will be spots where a night off wouldn't be such a bad idea. That could bring him down to around that 60 number, especially if the Devils get a capable backup in this offseason.
That is next step for this situation will take place in early July. Free agency will begin and we will see the fate of what happens with the Devils' goaltending. In my opinion, the Devils really should part ways with Martin Brodeur. He's clearly past it and anyone who argues otherwise needs to be reminded of his play last season. As much good he has done for the organization, it's that past sentiment that has clouded the harsh reality of the present. However, it's not as easy as just calling up Keith Kinkaid and being done with it. Kinkaid's numbers from the AHL have not been very inspiring as he just topped 91% in overall save percentage for the first time, in his third AHL season. I agree with Mike that it wouldn't be the worst idea for the Devils to pick up somebody more capable to handle the #2 role. Again, the backup will likely play more than just a handful of games next season given the amount of back-to-back sets the team will have. (And it would guarantee no return of a 41-year old Brodeur) If the Devils don't retain Brodeur and don't get an ex-starter who may be capable of wanting to become one, then it's likely Schneider will get what he wants. And he could get it right away.
Personally, what he wants is what I want. Schneider is a very good goaltender. On top of that, the Devils used a very valuable first round pick in 2013 to get him. I can live with not having, say, Valeri Nichushkin - he's who I was really hoping for when he was available at #9 - to have a very good goaltender in red, white, and black for quite some time. Not so, if he hits the market next summer. He may not get exactly 60+ games, but I admit to possibly splitting hairs on the numbers in light of the larger point. It's clear to me as it was to Chere and Mooney: he wants to be the main starter. He should have been the main starter last season. He should be the main starter next season. I hope we're pleased to a point that leads to a new contract well before July 1, 2015 - hopefully before the 2014-15 season even begins.
I put the question to you: Will Cory Schneider get a guarantee to be the starter for the Devils next season, to play 60 or more games? Do you think being open about it to the public was a good idea? Do you think such an assurance is worth it if it keeps Schneider around? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Schneider's demand in the comments. Thank you for reading.
Update: As I was writing this and shortly after I published it, @mtorino75 let me know on Twitter about this article by Pierre LeBrun at ESPN about Martin Brodeur. Simply: Brodeur will test the market on July 1. This quote from Brodeur, though, feels familiar:
"I've had a lot of good conversations with the Devils, but I'm not inclined at going back at this point," ... "I just feel that with Schneids (goalie Corey Schneider) the organization has to move on. Me being around might be tough a little bit for them. I don't completely put it out of the question (returning to New Jersey) but I don't want to mess up the cards for the Devils. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter where I go next, I'm always going to be a Devil. I'm always going to come back to the organization. But I want to play one more year. So I'll see what's out there."
I really wish he was more absolute than just "inclined" to not return to New Jersey. This feels like those other times he proclaimed that Schneider should be the starter and he has to take a step back and it's good for the team and what do you know Brodeur's starting again. But if this bears out on July 1, then the decision to guarantee Schneider as the #1 becomes much easier for the Devils.