In keeping with yesterday’s theme of prospects using the CBA to put themselves into a more favourable situation, I thought I’d draw some attention to Cory Schneider. If Mike Gillis is as astute as I think he is, Schneider will be traded before free agency opens.
If he isn’t traded before free agency opens, Schneider makes an even better target for an offer sheet than Josh Harding last year. Schneider has a pretty bulletproof resume – he’s presently amongst the top twenty THN prospects and Hockey’s Future has him at 32.
A couple of CBA quirks make Schneider an attractive target. First of all, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t play at least 30 minutes in 21 games next season. In Roberto Luongo’s last seven seasons, the backups have played at least 30 minutes in 21 games just once. Barring injury, it’s something that seems unlikely to happen.
Second, you can’t trade players in the first season of a contract that was matched in free agency. If the Oilers (or someone else) gave an offer sheet to Schneider that Vancouver matched, they’d be stuck with him, unable to trade him to someone else. If he didn’t end up playing 30 minutes in 21 games, he’d become a free agent at the end of the season.
Third, on re-reading the CBA it now seems to me that qualifying offers can consist of both signing bonus and salary and, unless I’ve missed something, that there’s no limit on the amount that can be counted as a signing bonus. So, for example, if the limit at which the compensation for an RFA is a second round draft pick is $3MM, a contract could provide for $1MM in salary and $2MM in signing bonus.
Imagine the scenario that the Canucks would face if Schneider signed such an offer sheet. They’d have to choose between accepting a second round draft pick for a player identified as an elite prospect, one who is ready to step into the NHL, or pay him $3MM to back up Roberto Luongo next season, with a strong likelihood that he’ll be an unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2010-11 season.
Is a top goaltending prospect worth a second round pick and $2MM? I’d have to think that the answer to this is “yes.” Second round draft picks aren’t free. While we don’t know what sort of signing bonuses they usually get, something in the range of $150,000 to $200,000 wouldn’t surprise me. If they spend the three years of their ELC in the minors, you can add another $200,000 to the bill – and that’s for an uncertain return.
For a rebuilding team, the opportunity to grab an elite prospect for nothing more than money and a draft pick seems like a heck of a deal. I fully expect that Gillis will move Schneider before July 1 but if he doesn’t…well, moves like this would represent a smart use of money that would assist in turning the Oilers around.