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Morning Skate: Schneider's Shocking Trade

Dan Pennucci

Dan is a former sportswriter and English teacher. He has been covering hockey for Rotowire since 2002. Supports the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC.

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Thursday, June 27
Subject: Vinny?!?!
I'm surprised to the see the news about Vinny, but I'm not too surprised. I know he had a huge contract but he was the face of that franchise, albeit a face that can't produce the same way he used to.

Had a conversation at a bar last night with a Flyers' fan who was very excited about having Steve Mason as the team's goalie. The Bryzgalov quotes in the press around here were amusing and several writers seemed like they were celebrating his leaving.

I'm going to the draft on Sunday. Never been to one, so I'm eager to see it. The Devils are looking at Hunter Shinkaruk possibly at No. 9, but I don't know if he'll be there, same with Elias Lindholm.

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Thursday, June 27
Subject: Lightning Rising, Seattle Coyotes

Jeffrey Vinik is a man who knows how to run a franchise. Mind you, Liverpool needs to come back a long way to regain the glory of the 80s. He's making a statement with his authorization to buy out Vinny Lecavalier, but do you blame him? It rids the Bolts of rids of a $7.727 million salary cap hit through the 2019-20 season. Vinny wants a long-term deal somewhere and someone will be daft enough to give it to him, particularly when there are no comparators this free agent season. I'd give him $4-4.5 per over three years max, but my gut says someone will blow the bank again. 

I've always liked Steve Mason. A buddy of mine used to ref in the Ontario Hockey League when Mason was there. He told me Mason was the real deal, both on the ice and off, and I believe him. He could actually perform reasonably well in the right system, but do the Flyers have that system? They eat their goalies for breakfast, lunch, dinner AND midnight snack. I hope he does well. I still like Bryz -- maybe he'll land back with Phoenix/Seattle. He was a product of the Dave Tippett system ... is Mike Smith the same? That's been gnawing away at my cerebellum for a long time. Will Smith cash in and pull a Bryzgalov flop? Or will he recognize he has a good thing going and re-sign for less. Ego ruins many a good man.

I can't imagine that Elias Lindholm will be anywhere near your pick at nine. And Hunter Shinkaruk? He doesn't strike me as the Devils' type. Sean Monahan would fit better in a Devils' uni -- smart, two-way guy with leadership oozing out of every pore. Speaking of the draft, do you think Joe Sakic is posturing by saying he's not taking Seth Jones at one? And does Jones slip to the Predators if another team doesn't trade up to get him? My gut says the Bolts will target Jonathan Drouin (if the Panthers don't take him) or Valeri Nichushkin, who is a personal fave of mine. He made Ryan Murphy and Malcolm Subban look like pee wee players on that bronze-winning goal at the World Juniors. He reminds me of a poor man's -- or maybe not so poor -- Evgeni Malkin. The Bolts like their Russians and they already made the Victor Hedman mistake. 

Halifax's Zach Furcale is another gamble that I think a team will gamble on come Sunday. He's head, shoulders and torso above the rest of the goalie class. I think he's top 10 -- any chance your Devils go there if he's still on the board? It strikes me they need to solve their goalie issues.

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Friday, June 28
Subject: Draft pondering

I'll remain blissfully ignorant that the Devils will still have a shot at Elias Lindholm at nine, knowing fully he will be gone by the ninth pick. I read a few scouting reports on Hunter Shinkaruk and was intrigued by him, but I did like what I saw of Monihan.

I can certainly see the Avs passing on Seth Jones, because I can't see Sakic and the new regime in Denver making that big of a statement as simply posturing and misdirection, but I've read reports that Calgary offered as much as a three first-round picks to the Avs, which is somewhat ironic considering the Ryan O'Reilly situation from earlier in the season. Defensemen take longer to develop but Jones is a special kind of athlete; I'm wondering if the teams at the top might have seen something in him. He didn't look good at the Memorial Cup courtesy of Drouin, MacKinnon and the rest of Halifax, but was that enough to scare off enough teams? The question then becomes do the Bolts take Jones if MacKinnon or Drouin are snatched up one-two or do they opt for Nichushkin or Barkov there at the risk of taking another defensemen high and not have him entirely pan out, or at least not compared to what other forwards taken before him did (i.e. John Tavares and Matt Duchene vis-a-vis Victor Hedman)? Or is Jones a guy that will be a steal if he's there at 3? You saw Jones quite a bit more than I did, what's your take on his ceiling and the kind of impact he make immediately?

Regarding the two Moosehead forwards (always loved that Halifax nickname), is one better because of the other? Will MacKinnon continue to succeed without Drouin or vice versa or will they both struggle a bit? 

Outside of the top several picks, who can have the biggest impact this season? Whose projection are you not buying?

As for the Devils with a goalie in the first round, I'm hoping they'll pass on a goalie in the first round. This draft isn't terribly deep with goalies and sometimes high picks don't pan out for goaltenders while lower ones turn into quite remarkable or at least very solid players. The Devils will need to address their situation soon, as it's between Scott Wedgewood, Keith Kinkaid and Maxime Clermont in the AHL. My guess is they'll trade for a veteran or sign a veteran when Marty retires (likely at the end of next season). They've had some players in the system that were highly projected but have never panned out such as Ari Ahonen a number of years ago and Jeff Frazee.

Someone is going to sign Ilya Bryzgalov. Despite all the cosmonaut flightiness, he's still a better than average NHL goaltender, albeit one that appears to wear out his welcome wherever he goes. Philadelphia was not a good place for he and his personality. Markets like Anaheim and Phoenix had less media and fan scrutiny, so I think he'll end up in a smaller market team where he can just by Bryz. Also, him bolting back to the KHL will not surprise me in the least.

The Vinny buy out surprised me and didn't surprise me. I know it's a business and he's nowhere near the offensive player he used to be, but it's still Vinny. You're right that someone will overpay him and the rumors are abound about him finally going to Montreal, but why would he want that scrutiny and attention? Think a reunion with Torts in Vancouver is a possibility? 

This free agent market is setting up for a few people to be overpaid, which it seems is every year. I can see David Clarkson getting way way too much money from someone and the Devils letting him walk, ditto for Bryan Bickell after the playoffs. The recently bought out players coupled with the players who were already to be UFA will be interesting.

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Friday, June 28
Subject: Clarkson To Toronto...Of Course

We've already had a Clarkson confirmation for blue and white -- don't you know this is the center of the hockey universe? LOL. You're right about high-pick goalies -- you're more likely to get a great one further down. But do you actually think Wedgewood, Kinkaid or Clermont will ever be NHL starters?

Jones is a special prospect, but at some point, that handle gets overused. Don't get me wrong -- I love the guy. But will he be that much better than countryman Jacob Trouba? I don't honestly know. Big, defensively-responsible and offensive-minded right defenders do not grow on trees. But in today's NHL, can you really afford to wait for a guy to mature into his studliness? Honestly, I think it's harder to buy a free agent top center than a stud defender, so I'd err toward the forward on draft day. 

Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin will both be studs. Sure, they'll need to adjust to not playing together, but they'll be fine. I don't think the Bolts will bite on Seth Jones if Barkov or Nichushkin are still there. And since Vinny is gone, Barkov might be the target. Like I said, the Preds could get a gift -- can you imagine his value in that system? That's where he fulfills that immense potential and faster than in other systems.

Bo Horvat is a guy who is close to NHL ready. He'll be a sturdy, hard-nosed player for a long, long time. I also like Darnell Nurse -- a lot of people say his offensive upside is limited, but they said the same about Jacob Trouba. And look at where he's sitting. He might just be the best defensive prospect in any system. And that's saying a lot. Someone will overdraft Jordan Subban because of the bloodlines. He'll be a fine 5/6 guy who performs well on the PP, but even-strength time will be difficult for him. Andre Burakovsky is another boom-bust kind of guy. Great talent and elite speed, but painfully inconsistent. The team snagging him might be hitting a home run or tipping a third-strike bunt straight into the catcher's mitt. 

Yes, someone is going to overpay for Vinny, Clarkson, et al. The smartest thing Bickell can do is re-sign in Chicago. And yes, Bryz will land somewhere, too. Vinny will chose a place where he can win and he's already said he'll play the wing if need be. Why put himself through the disaster in Vancouver? I'd love to see him keep his price tag low and go to Detroit. Or maybe weight the potential of the St. Louis Blues -- they're close, depending on how you define that word. But you avoided my Mike Smith question. Is he a product of the Dave Tippett Kool-Aid and will he dissolve outside the desert? 

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Saturday, June 29
Subject: Paging Mr. Smith

Fair points about Vinny being reunited with Torts, but I figure there will be way more teams interested in Vinny than Vinny is interested in playing for. The prospect of him playing the wing is intriguing and seems a bit more selfless than anything. Sounds like he wants to be a part of a team needing a veteran presence and still wants to show he has a bit of skill left in the tank, albeit not another 100-plus point season. However, he's averaged around .80 points-per-game the last three seasons which is still not too shabby. 

Yes, the smart thing Bickell can do is stay put in the Second City, but we know he won't, and you can't blame him. He's looking at a Joel Ward type of contract for a player that exploded well above their usual when the games mattered the most. Bickell I don't think will command as much as Clarkson, but Bickell will cash in somewhere other than Chicago. I read the book "Soccernomics" several years ago and part of it focused on the club Olympique Lyon in southeast France and how they would refuse to sign players that broke out at World Cup or European Championship tournaments, basically saying they're not going to continue that level of play. I see the same thing with Bickell. However, someone will overpay for him and then wonder why he's not scoring nine goals every 20-plus games. If Paul Gaustad is worth a first-round pick and then a subsequent contract extension then Bickell will see a nice payday and probably not from the Blackhawks.

Mike Smith and Ilya Bryzgalov have looked like products of the Dave Tippett system but the system Bryz played in Philly was not exactly designed to insulate goaltenders. I can't see Smith repeating the success of the 2011-12 season in Phoenix, Seattle, Hamilton, Regina or wherever it is the Coyotes will end up or wherever he ends up. I find it a bit less than auspicious that every ownership group interested in the Coyotes wants an out clause with the city of Glendale. As for Smith, you have to believe he'll have a lower price tag because of the stigma of him being a system goaltender, especially when you consider he didn't fit in with Tampa Bay and Dallas before becoming a world-beater for several stretches in the 2012 season. Smith will latch on somewhere, but as a starter, I'm not so sure.

No, I can't see any of the Devils goalies in the minors being a long-term solution for the team. The group of them can't seem to grab hold of the job in the minors, so it's likely that the Devils will get a veteran netminder for several years.

The prospect of Seth Jones landing in a Barry Trotz system and being fostered along by Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne would be tantalizing for David Poile and the Preds. It still wouldn't solve their goal scoring issues, but that would be a steal.

The rumors flying around the NHL Twitter-verse right now included every player with a pulse and some without one in potential draft day trades. I do like what I've seen of Darnell Nurse and can see him being an impact player in a year or two. 

Yes, I know Clarkson is already being fitted with his blue and white Leafs jersey. I can already see Randy Caryle penciling him in on a line with Frazer McClaren and Colton Orr.

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Saturday, June 29
Subject: Shiny Object Syndrome

There will be too many GMs with SOS -- shiny object syndrome -- when it comes to Mike Smith. He can be effective in the right system, just like Bryan Bickell. I've often wondered what guys with egos see in the mirror when they look in. Both men will suffer the same fate if they chase glory elsewhere. They'll go from an insulated environment with other guys who can absorb the heat to one where they become one of the top three guys. We both know there's a heavy weight to be carried when you're one of the go-to guys and there's a huge risk of looking like a failure. There's good money and then there's smart money. They'd both be wise to take the smart money.

You think Twitter is on fire leading into the draft? Monday is Canada Day, but Sunday is draft day and up here, the radio, TV, newspapers, websites and social feeds are all dealing hockey non-stop. It's awesome. But you do here some crazy crap bouncing around. Tyler Seguin's name is in the mix; so is Cory Schneider's. Blah, blah, blah.

Enjoy the draft tomorrow, my friend. I can't wait to hear your insights.

(Ed. Note: Bickell re-signed with Chicago on Sunday, inking a 4-year deal worth $4 million per season)

(Ed Note: Mike Smith is staying in Seattle Phoenix with a 6-year, $34 million contract, as per the Arizona Republic's Sarah McClellan.)

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Monday, July 1
Subject: Welcome to New Jersey, Cory

Booo! Booo!
Sorry, not booing you, just a flashback to yesterday at the draft when commissioner Gary Bettman was showered with boos whenever he appeared on stage. It always amazes me when he brushes off the boos and barely acknowledges them, like he welcomes them; the booing was one of the best moments of the draft and I definitely made my voice heard. The chanting of "Marty's better" to Patrick Roy when the Avs made Nathan MacKinnon a very rich young man was also excellent.
When Bettman walked up on stage to announce New Jersey's 9th pick the boos grew and grew, even more when he said there was a trade to announce and Bettman, never flinching, said: "You're gonna want to hear this," in his most Bettman-voice. The trade of course being Corey Schneider coming to Newark for the Devils' 9th overall pick in the draft. Yes, that's it. Just the 9th pick.

There were plenty of cheers for the trade, but a number of Devils' fans remain skeptical or wanted an impact forward.

In short, I'm a fan of the trade. Martin Brodeur is going to play one more season or a highly unlikely two more, and the Devils' organizational depth at goaltender is quite thin. This move shores up the next 10 years hopefully and the Devils got Schneider for a pittance of what Edmonton and Calgary were allegedly offering. I see Schneider starting close to 40 percent of games this season and the Devils buying out or trading Johan Hedberg.

More on the draft next time.