Johnston: Gillis forced to resolve goalie conundrum

Vancouver Canucks traded Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils.

NEW YORK – With the Vancouver Canucks’ great goalie conundrum now entering its second straight draft weekend, Mike Gillis is entertaining offers on Cory Schneider.

At this point, it might be the only answer to a question that has hung over this franchise for more than a year.

The Canucks were so high on Schneider that they publicly declared him their No. 1 heading into last summer and endeavored to trade Roberto Luongo. However, the initial offers were not to Gillis’ liking and now Luongo’s contract looks like an immovable weight.

It would take about $27-million to buy him out and the Canucks aren’t particularly keen to be paying him for the next 18 years.

Enter Schneider.

He’s a 27-year-old that Vancouver drafted and developed into one of the top goalies in the NHL. And there’s a chance his best years might end up being played for another team.

“You have to listen (to offers),” Gillis said Saturday. “If you’re in any business, you have to listen to what the proposals may be and act accordingly. That’s what we’re doing.”

From the sounds of it, the phones are ringing off the hook.

Gillis has been extremely patient with this situation so far, but time appears to be running out. The deadline for compliance buyouts is next Thursday and you’d have to think one of Luongo or Schneider will be gone by the time that window closes.

There is no way the Canucks can entertain the idea of another season with both.

Schneider certainly looked like a No. 1 goalie last year, where he finished among the league leaders with a .927 save percentage. Gillis was asked if a prospect and first-round draft pick would be enough to get him and replied “it all depends on the team and the pick.”

There is plenty to suggest that rivals wouldn’t mind paying a high price to secure his services.

“I think he’s a very good young player and teams are after good young players all the time,”  Gillis said.

In the leadup to Sunday afternoon’s draft, the Canucks were considering various options. Defenceman Alex Edler was believed to be a trade possibility and a decision is still pending on a compliance buyout for Keith Ballard.

The dominoes might start to fall if they could clear up the situation in the crease.

If Gillis could do it all again, he would likely have traded Luongo during last year’s draft. There were talks at that time with Florida and Toronto, but the Canucks GM figured he could get more by trying to wait things out.

He’d be lucky to get much of anything for the Olympic-winning goalie now.

With the new cap recapture penalties introduced in the collective bargaining agreement, it would be a major risk for any organization to take on Luongo’s contract. They would be on the hook for a significant cap hit if he retired before the end of the deal in 2022.

It’s why the veteran goalie was so candid when the trade deadline came and went without a deal for him in April.

“My contract sucks,” Luongo said then. “It’s why I’m still here (in Vancouver). If I could rip it up, I would.”

Unlike Luongo, Schneider doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his contract. He’s due to receive $4-million each of the next two seasons and could be a good fit for a number of organizations.

Not long ago, he was essentially considered an untouchable for the Canucks organization.

But these are unusual times in the NHL and trading Schneider might be the only way for Vancouver to get rid of a goalie without writing cheques to Luongo long into his retirement.

“We’re listening to proposals – you never say never about anything,” Gillis said. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

One area where you can rule the Canucks out is the bidding on Vincent Lecavalier. The veteran centre is currently in New York meeting with interested teams, but he isn’t on Vancouver’s radar at this point in time.

“We need to get past (the draft) tomorrow first before we get focused on that,” Gillis said. “We’ve got a lot of balls in the air right now and we’re trying to sort through different proposals and what’s available. Then we’ll address free agency beyond that.”

It didn’t sound like there would be much time for sleep.

“It’s been really busy,” Gillis said. “I’m getting a lot of calls and (having) a lot of discussions. We’ll see how it turns out.”

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