In the same vein that the 2013 Entry Draft was highlighted by the top-shelf products of Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov and Seth Jones, the ninth overall pick was an equally memorable part of the afternoon.
That was when NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, who spent most of the day showered in jeers from the fans at the Prudential Center, silenced the building and hockey world with a proclamation of: “I think you’re going to want to hear this…”
And with that, the ninth overall selection, owned by the host-Devils, had been traded. And when the the words that followed were “New Jersey trades the Ninth Selection in the NHL Draft to Vancouver in exchange for Goaltender, Cory Schneider,” there was a palpable sense of optimism in the building. It was also greeted with some visible faces of “Oh, come on!” from neighboring-team’s fanbases, adorned in red and blue and orange and black. Because as the era of Martin Brodeur was closing to a finale, the Devils had just nabbed perhaps the best young goalie in the NHL at the time.
But timing is everything and the Devils and Schneider never seemed to be collectively good enough at the same time. His buyout decision, officially announced on Thursday, ends a tenure as frustrating for no. 35 as it was for the club and on-looker’s of New Jersey, who squandered what could have been a nice transition following the highly successful Brodeur era.
That era, which included three Stanley Cups, five Cup appearances and the winningest goaltender in the NHL, was officially put to bed in the 2014-15 season, when after sharing the crease with Brodeur for one season, Schneider started 68 games and sported the league’s fourth-best save percentage among NHL starting goaltenders (.925). But the Devils failed to qualify for the postseason, their underwhelming offensive production (176 goals) was third-worst in the league. It would be a reoccurring theme to Schneider’s time in New Jersey.
He’d again backstop the 2015-16 season without run-support as the team finished with the worst goals-for in the league. He’d start 59 games in 2016-17, then GM Ray Shero adding Taylor Hall to address the scoring woes, but the club finished in the basement and was last in scoring among the Eastern Conference.
By 2017-18, the Devils found their way a bit. Nico Hischier came in as the first overall pick; Hall had a career season and the team was able to qualify for the postseason for the first time in the Schneider era. But it was the 26-10-3 run by Keith Kinkaid that propelled the team there. To his credit, Schneider, who went winless in regular season games for the 2018 calendar year, did win the Devils last and only playoff game since 2012–game three of the first round versus Tampa.
Since then, the goalie has battled injuries and split parts of last season with the team’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton. All that was enough for the Devils to need to decide between two potentials: 1.) The veteran netminder who could help push Mackenzie Blackwood in what may very well be a compressed NHL season in 2020-21; and the decided route 2.) The veteran netminder, finally healthy, who might not be eligible for a buyout if they waited any longer.
And with the most fluid goaltending market I can recall, perhaps it was a welcomed opportunity for both sides. Schneider, could command work with a National Hockey League team as a backup and at a reduced rate from his $6 million figure from last season. The goaltender could also pivot quite nicely to television having apprenticed for NBC Sports during the postseason. In any event, he’ll be a free agent at 12p.m. Friday.