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Gillis says goaltender Cory Schneider could play in Vancouver next year

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Goaltender Cory Schneider will be given a chance to make the Vancouver Canucks this fall, which could result in recent signing Andrew Raycroft playing for the AHL Manitoba Moose, general manager Mike Gillis said Tuesday.

"He (Schneider) is going to come and compete to make this team," Gillis said. "If he makes it, he stays. If he doesn't, he'll have to go and spend some more time in Manitoba.

"Our long-range plans are to keep him as a Vancouver Canuck and having him play here."

The Canucks are also observing the NHL's investigation into possible tampering by the Toronto Maple Leafs in an attempt to sign free-agents Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

"At this point we are going to observe what the league's reaction is to this," Gillis said. "We haven't made any definitive decisions yet."

Schneider's future with the Canucks has been a point of discussion in Vancouver. The former first-round draft pick led the Moose to the Calder Cup final this season and was named the AHL's top goalie.

But with all-star goalie Roberto Luongo close to signing a long-term contract in Vancouver, there are questions over how the 22-year-old's development will be affected by sitting on the bench. Luongo is a workhorse who usually plays over 70 games a season.

"I think we'll get through training camp and see who the best players are for this team and we'll make a decision then," Gillis said.

"There's a lot of merit of being around a guy considered the best player in the league at his position. There also is merit in taking NHL shots and being part of an NHL team and part of an NHL environment."

The Canucks signed Raycroft, a former NHL rookie of the year, to a one-year deal worth US$500,000 on Monday. Schneider would be paid $984,200 to play in the NHL, meaning it would be cheaper to keep Raycroft.

"Money has never been a factor in our decisions of who goes to the minors and who doesn't," Gillis said.

Vancouver signed the Sedin twins to identical $30.5-million, five-year contracts last week. Gillis flew to Sweden to make the deal and prevent the twins from becoming unrestricted free agents.

Last week, Toronto coach Ron Wilson told a Toronto radio station: "I would think we would be going after the Sedins."

Gillis declined comment on whether Wilson's remarks could be considered tampering.

The Canucks currently have 20 players signed for $51.68 million. The NHL salary cap will be $56.8 million this season.

Vancouver remains in the market for a defenceman. Veteran Mattias Ohlund, the longest serving Canuck, signed a $26.25-million, seven-year free-agent deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning last week.

"We're going to add a defenceman before the end of summer," Gillis said. "We've got about four or five things in the air right now with respect to that.

"We'll sort through them as we move along."

Among the NHL defenceman still available are Derek Morris and Mathieu Schneider.

Gillis doesn't rule out veteran Mats Sundin returning to Vancouver next year. If he does, Sundin will have to play for less money and the Canucks won't wait half a season for him to decide.

"If he wants to play, I'd be happy to have him back," said Gillis. "In the event that happens, we'll have to work out the money the best we can."

Sundin was paid $5.6 million after signing with the Canucks last December.

Gillis will resume talks next week to sign Luongo to a contract extension. Luongo is entering the final year of a deal that will pay him $6.75 million.

He could become a free agent next summer.

"I feel very comfortable with where we are going," Gillis said. "We've had really good discussions with him and we're confident we'll get something done.

"We would like to get it done sooner rather than later. I think he would as well."

Gillis wasn't upset that restricted free agent Kyle Wellwood has filed for arbitration.

Wellwood earned $997,500 last year. He came to camp out of shape, but finished the season with 18 goals and nine assists, plus developed into a reliable two-way performer.

"He's just protecting his interests," Gillis said. "We've had some really good discussions with Kyle's agent.

"We'll see if it gets to that. We're hoping it doesn't. I think he's hoping it doesn't. We'll have to find some common ground."


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