Cory Schneider will start in goal for Vancouver tonight in Los Angeles, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault announced today.
In a related story, the Roberto Luongo era might be over in Vancouver.
But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Schneider started Sunday’s Game 3 of the Canucks-Kings series after Vancouver lost the first two games at home with Luongo between the pipes. The 26-year-old stopped 19 of 20 shots in a 1-0 defeat – a performance that earned him tonight’s nod, this time with the Presidents’ Trophy winners facing elimination.
“This one is do or die for us,” said Schneider. “I’m ready for it and I’ll be ready tonight.”
But the ramifications of the team’s decision go beyond the present. Clearly Luongo isn’t the undisputed No. 1 anymore. Not that’s he being blamed for the Canucks’ current predicament, but he’s not being asked to help them get out of it either. And that wouldn’t sit well with any starter.
Luongo is 33 years old and his contract runs until 2021-22 with a cap hit of $5.3 million. However, the notion that he’s untradeable is specious.
First off, he still boasted among the best numbers (.919 SV%) in the NHL this season. He’s played in numerous big games, and while not all those big games went well (and that’s putting it gently), a lot of them did. If not for Schneider’s exceptional play, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.
Secondly, Luongo’s contract only technically runs until 2021-22. There’s no guarantee he’ll play the last three years when his actual salary is minimal. It’s still a lengthy commitment, but we’ve seen teams take on these risks before.
So far as potential destinations go, Toronto could be one. Tampa Bay could be another. Ditto for Columbus and New Jersey. Florida always gets brought up, but the Panthers have Jacob Markstrom waiting in the wings.
No, Luongo hasn’t been traded yet. But since he came to Vancouver in 2006, he’s never been closer to leaving.