VANCOUVER – Even though Cory Schneider has signed a new contract, Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis says he’s in no rush to trade veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Schneider displaced Luongo as Vancouver’s starting goaltender in the first round of the playoffs as the Canucks were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings. After the season ended, Luongo said he would accepted a trade if the team asked him to waive his no-movement clause.
“With respect to the possibility of trading Roberto, we’re going to take our time,” Gillis said Friday at Rogers Arena. “We’re going to make sure we do the right thing for this organization.”
Schneider’s three-year deal worth US$12 million gives the Canucks two goaltenders earning No. 1 salaries. The 26-year-old will earn $3.5 million in 2012-13, $4 million in 2013-14 and $4.5 million in 2014-15.
Luongo still has 10 years to run on a 12-year, US$64-million contract that averages out to a cap hit of $5.3 million per season. But Gillis said finances will not force his hand when he considers whether or not to trade Luongo.
“When a player steps on the ice, the money doesn’t matter,” said Gillis. “I could care less about the money. I care about having the best team and the most competitive team. I think we’ve done pretty well with that approach.”
Schneider, a native of Marblehead, Mass., was due to become a restricted free agent Sunday. By signing him this week, the Canucks prevented other teams from signing him to an offer sheet which Vancouver would have had the right to match.
“Cory wanted to stay here and we wanted to keep him here, so we were confident that we were going to get it done before July 1st,” Gillis said.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Schneider said he never intended to go anywhere else.
“This is the only team I’ve ever played for, so it made sense for me to return here and continue my career here,” said Schneider, who has been with the Canucks organization since they drafted him in the first round (26th overall) in 2004.
While indicating he expects Luongo to be traded, based on reports and his own contract situation, Schneider said the team has not advised him of its plans.
“The situation is very obvious to everyone out there,” said Schneider. “They wanted me back.”
Schneider and Luongo have forged a close relationship while working together the past two season. Until the club decides otherwise, Schneider said he will be happy to remain Luongo’s teammate.
Schneider posted a 20-8-1 record while appearing in 33 games in his second full season with Vancouver in 2011-12. He ranked second in the NHL in save percentage (.937) and third in goals against with a 1.96 average.
Luongo, a 33-year-old Montreal native, went 31-14-8 in his sixth season with the Canucks while posting a 2.41 goals-against average and five shutouts.
If a Luongo trade does come to pass, farmhand Eddie Lack will get a chance to make the Canucks in training camp.
“Eddie Lack is ready to compete for a spot, and we’re going to give him that opportunity,” said Gillis.
The GM will also explore the possibility of acquiring a veteran NHL backup.
“Now, we have all of our options ahead of us, and we’ll flush them all out,” said Gillis, who expects the trade market to heat up in August.
Meanwhile, Canucks 2011 first-round draft pick Nicklas Jensen confirmed his intention to play in the Swedish Elite League next season if he does not crack the NHL club’s roster. Jensen, a 19-year-old winger from Denmark, still has a year of junior eligibility remaining, but said he does not want to return to the Oshawa Generals because needs a new challenge and an opportunity to play at a higher level.
“But right now, my focus is just trying to make Vancouver here in September,” said Jensen, who is participating in a Canucks prospects camp between now and Monday.
Jensen scored four goals in six regular-season games and contributed two more in a pair of playoff games with Vancouver’s AHL farm team in Chicago last season. But he is ineligible to play in the minors full-time because of his age. The Canucks have endorsed his desire to play in the Swedish Elite League if he does not crack their roster.
“He’s a very strong player,” said Gillis. “I think that he has a unique opportunity, and we’re going to support him.”
Also, Gillis said the club does not plan to honour retired Canucks winger Pavel Bure following his recent induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Gillis, who formerly acted as Bure’s agent, said the Canucks offered the Russian Rocket the opportunity but he declined.
The team has come under fire from fans and critics for not retiring Bure’s No. 10 jersey or doing more to trumpet his success. Gillis said the team also offered Bure a chance to be honoured earlier, but he rejected the opportunity on grounds that he is still to young.
The GM said the club could still do something in the future if Bure changes his mind.