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Schneider trade signals transition for Devils, Brodeur

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEWARK, N.J. -- Cory Schneider admits that when the Vancouver Canucks were swept out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the San Jose Sharks, the goaltender's belief was the team would continue to try to trade his backup, Roberto Luongo.

But that narrative shifted suddenly in the past few days, resulting in Schneider's trade to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, ending a year's worth of melodrama in Vancouver and beginning the eventual end of an era in New Jersey.

The early moments of the 2013 NHL Draft included the surprise announcement that the Devils had acquired Schneider from Vancouver for the ninth pick, which the Canucks used to select forward Bo Horvat of the London Knights.

The trade provided Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur with something he hasn't had before: a young backup who can eventually take over as the starter once the likely Hall of Fame member announces his retirement.

"I think we're getting a goaltender not only of the present, but of the future," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "Marty is at a point where he can't play the way he played, as far as the number of games he's played.

"This young man (Schneider, 27) has proven to be a No. 1 goaltender. I've spoken with him and he's just as excited to come here and work with Marty."

"Work with Marty" likely will mean splitting time with the 41-year-old, at least for the time being. It didn't take long for Lamoriello to address the topic of who would be the Devils' first-string goaltender at the start of the 2013-14 season.

"Marty is still our No. 1 goaltender. There's no question about it. It's just a question of how much he can play to keep at the top of his game," said Lamoriello, who at the time had not spoken with either Brodeur or backup Johan Hedberg. "This gives us that transition that we would have loved to have gotten maybe a year ago if it was possible. This is something we feel just outstanding about."

Lamoriello said he didn't have a problem sending the No. 9 pick to Vancouver, considering he did not see a goaltending talent available at that position who was capable of jumping quickly into the NHL.

That lack of a successor for Brodeur was becoming a problem for the Devils, especially as the NHL's all-time leader in wins started to contend with injuries in recent years. After appearing in 70 or more games in 10 straight seasons, Brodeur has been sidelined in three of the past four.

Schneider also is a considerably younger alternative to 40-year-old Hedberg. Schneider established himself as an NHL starter in 2012-13, posting a 17-9-4 record with a .927 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average.

Those numbers led many to believe the Canucks would look to trade older and more expensive Luongo (34) in order to make Schneider their starter. That plan was reinforced when Schneider signed a three-year contract extension worth $12 million with Vancouver last summer. The goaltending controversy that ensued became a fixture in the Canucks dressing room for more than a year.

"[The trade] was pretty shocking. I didn't really know what to think," Schneider said. "Coming up in the NHL, it was always assumed I was going to get dealt at some point, but nothing ever happened. I think with the extension last year, I felt I got away from trade rumors. But the landscape changed with the [Collective Bargaining Agreement] and it kind of changed the parameters."

Schneider said, until recently, his understanding was the Canucks were looking to trade Luongo. Sunday, Schneider said he was looking forward to learning under arguably the greatest goaltender in NHL history.

"I wasn't really privy to what [the Canucks'] plans were," Schneider said. "They were pretty consistent in [trading Luongo]. We sort of knew what the situation was and what it may end up coming to in terms of doing what was best for the team. This was always on the table. The situation is what it is until it changes. But a new opportunity arises and I'm looking forward to it."

Brodeur and Schneider still have to find out how the Devils' crease will be divided, but this trade did bring an end to a goaltending controversy that had become a dominant narrative in Vancouver. The media fixation started during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when Schneider took over the Vancouver net one year after Luongo helped the Canucks to the Final.

"It's closure for most parties involved. It was never overly stressful," Schneider said. "Just having a defined role and knowing what to expect makes things easier. It's tough for me having spent nine years in the organization. In that aspect, it will be an adjustment, but I'm just really excited to be going to New Jersey where they have a pretty rich history in a short amount of time."

Brodeur said he saw the advantage Schneider provides the Devils but isn't ready to hang up his gear and concede the position he has manned for 20 years.

"I think Cory is one of the top five goalies in the NHL and I think it's a chance for him to get away from the chaos of Vancouver, and I think I'm not going to play forever," Brodeur said. "It'll be great playing with him and I'll definitely try and push him and get my ice time as much as I can.

"In my mind, I feel I'm still No. 1. He'll have to fight me for it."


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