The Vancouver Canucks made their biggest move of the off-season late on Thursday, signing backup-turned-starting goaltender Cory Schneider to a new contract.
Mike Gillis announced the news at an event at Rogers Arena for a small audience of some season ticket holders. He also took to Twitter, his first tweet in five months.
The deal was reached just 15 minutes before Gillis took to the stage at the event for fans.
"We have agreed in principle to a deal with Cory Schneider," according to the official Twitter account for Gillis, @gmmikegillis. "More news in the next few days."
Schneider is a 26-year-old restricted free agent and reportedly signed a three-year deal worth $12-million, according to TSN. Such a contract would be a $4-million hit on the salary cap, much the same as Ondrej Pavelec, the 24-year-old starter in Winnipeg who just signed a five-year deal, $19.5-million deal, a $3.9-million cap hit. But it is a lot less than the $58-million over 10 years deal for Jonathan Quick, the goaltending hero who helped lift the Los Angeles Kings to their first Stanley Cup.
The signing of Schneider appears to cement the likelihood of the departure of Roberto Luongo, though the Gillis has previously suggested the team could go into the fall with both goaltenders. The scenario seems implausible, given both want to be starters, and their combined cap hit would be $9.3-million. TSN late Thursday reported it now appears the Florida Panthers may be the most probable destination.
Luongo, Vancouver's starter the past six years, was eclipsed by Schneider in April. Luongo started the first two games of the first round against the Los Angeles Kings, losses, and Schneider started Game 3, also a loss, and -- in the crucial moment-- Schneider was also tapped to start Games 4 and 5, as Luongo was benched. After the jarring first-round exit, Luongo said he would accept a trade.
The deal for Schneider also answers a big question for Gillis as free agency approaches, which in theory frees his hand to take other major moves. Vancouver is one of as many as six teams on the short-ish list for Justin Schultz, the 21-year-old free agent defenceman. On Thursday night in Vancouver, Gillis told Canucks fans -- the event was broadcast on the team’s website -- that he couldn’t speak about the situation, though he added, "Maybe later."
Schultz, a native of British Columbia, would bolster the Canucks’ defence, leaving the centre position as the other place of need come July 1, the start of free agency. Ryan Kesler, the second-line centre, is out with injury until November and on Thursday Gillis said he believes prospect Jordan Schroeder, a 21-year-old 2009 first-round pick (No. 22), will compete for the second-line centre job in Kesler’s absence.
One fan asked the Canucks wingers and whether Gillis would pursue the likes of Shane Doan. Since Doan is not a free agent until July 1, Gillis offered no comment, as it would be against league rules.
Teammate and defenceman Kevin Bieska quickly tweeted congratulations after the deal was announced.
"Great teammate that has worked hard for his opportunities," Bieksa wrote, and concluded with a soft joke: "Good red-headed goalies are a rare commodity!"