• In defence of the Schneider return

    by Tyler Dellow • July 1, 2013 • Hockey • 22 Comments

    Vancouver’s long running goalie saga came with a twist ending today: Roberto Luongo stays and Cory Schneider moves on to the New Jersey Devils. In exchange, the Canucks received the Devils’ first round pick, ninth overall. They quickly used that pick to select Bo Horvat. I’m not particularly interested in the psychodrama of it all, except to the extent that there’s an undefined possibility that Luongo now demands a trade or retires or something, which would be hilarious. I am interested in the idea that Mike Gillis received poor value here. I see that as distinct from the other question about this, which is whether or not a player like Bo Horvat is what Vancouver needs right now.

    I tend to think that Gillis got good value for Schneider. I went back through the last ten year’s worth of drafts and looked for picks that were plus or minus five spots from the ninth overall that Vancouver acquired for Cory Schneider and that were traded in trades that weren’t primarily pick trades. There aren’t a lot. Toronto’s pick, overall in 2007, was traded to San Jose along with some other picks for Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell. I had this to say in the fall of that year:

    While I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be paying $8MM over two years for Toskala, if you look at his numbers, he’s fairly described as a guy who has spent his career floating between average and slightly above average, with a big spike pre-lockout. If the Leafs can put together another big outshooting year, that’s probably all they’ll need to slide into second in the division. They aren’t really getting any great value out of Toskala though and there were probably better ways to do this. The Leafs spent a lot of draft picks on acquiring Toskala and are basically going to pay him free agent money…

    As it turned out, Toskala was at the end of the line or never much good anyway, no matter what the numbers said; the Leafs blew a top ten Corsi% year and things kind of snowballed. San Jose turned the picks they got in exchange into Logan Couture.

    Edmonton’s pick, twelfth overall, in 2008 went to Anaheim (and then to other places) as part of the compensation for Dustin Penner. It turned into Tyler Myers. Calgary’s first round pick in 2010 (13th overall), which turned out to be Brandon Gormley, who looks to have had a very nice age 20 season in Portland, went to Phoenix in 2009 as part of a deal for Olli Jokinen.

    Three of these picks moved in 2011. Columbus moved the number 8 pick, along with Jacob Voracek, for Jeff Carter. Toronto gave up the number ten as part of the Phil Kessel deal. The Blues’ pick, at 11, went to Colorado as part of the trade that sent Erik Johnson to Colorado and Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart to St. Louis. It bears mentioning that the pick was protected – Colorado wouldn’t have received it if it was a top ten pick. Those picks turned into Sean Couturier, Dougie Hamilton and Duncan Siemens, respectively.

    Last year, Pittsburgh acquired the number eight pick as part of the return for Jordan Staal. Washington got the number eleven from Colorado in the Semyon Varlamov deal. Those picks were turned into Derrick Pouliot and Filip Forsberg.

    When you look at the calibre of player it takes to acquire a pick in this range, it seems generally to be pretty high to me. There’s the odd screwup – Toskala, Varlamov, Penner and Jokinen, although in three of those cases, you can argue that the team giving up the pick probably (foolishly) didn’t expect that the pick would be so high. Jeff Carter, Phil Kessel, Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and Jordan Staal can all play. You could build a Cup contender around those players.

    The players acquired with those picks have, generally speaking, turned out to be really good players to great players too. This is where I think that the people complaining about the return are kind of missing the point. The thing about a pick in the top ten is that you’re talking about a player who has a non-marginal chance of being an honest to god star in the NHL. That potential, which may or may not be realized, has real value.

    Imagine if someone offered you a lottery ticket for a 6/49 draw that had a 1/1,000 chance of winning $10,000,000. How much would be willing to pay for it? You might say “Well, 1/1000*10,000,000=$10,000. That ticket has an expected value to me of $10,000 so I wouldn’t pay more than that.” You might also quite reasonably say “I’d notice if $15,000 was gone but it wouldn’t change my life. $10,000,000 would. I’d be willing to risk a negative expected return for something potentially life changing.”

    Acquiring an elite player for nothing more than the cost of a draft pick is life changing for NHL teams. Rightly or wrongly, teams are able to command awfully high prices for those draft picks. There’s no guarantee but they seem to treat the possibility as being enough to command a high price. It is, I think, defensible to do so.

    It’s easy to say that Vancouver should have got more because of what Washington was able to get from Colorado in exchange for Semyon Varlamov but, frankly, that was an insane deal the moment that it was made. I don’t think it’s all that sensible to judge a deal based on the highest price:value deal you can think of.

    I think it’s a bit telling when you look at how Varlamov performed after that deal too. He hasn’t been particularly good in Colorado. That, of course, is the other side of this: goalies without much of a track record are volatile commodities. They’re kind of like draft picks between 5 and 10 that way, in that there’s a potential for huge return or a big bust.

    Is Cory Schneider really a great goalie? Eric Tulsky at Broadstreet Hockey thinks he’s one of the best bets in the league right now; personally, I’m kind of uncomfortable with giving up much of anything for a goalie with such a short track record. Assuming that Mike Gillis took the best offer available to him, it looks like that’s a view shared around the NHL. When you look at this deal in the context of what it generally takes to get a pick that high without a high pick to throw in the deal, I don’t think it’s that bad.

    The other question, of course, is whether this move makes sense for Vancouver given the context of their team. The Canucks now have three stars: the Sedins and Luongo, who are 33, 33 and 34. That’s an awfully old team for a Cup contender and the window is probably closing on the opportunity to win a Cup on a team built around the Sedins pretty shortly – I suspect Luongo’s got a bit longer as a high end player than they do, assuming good health. If that’s the case, you wonder why they didn’t try and get a player who helps them right now, rather than two or three years down the road. That’s a harder question to answer favourably for Gillis, although it’s been pointed out to me that Vancouver’s tight against the salary cap.

    It’s seemed to me over the past few years that Vancouver has kind of tried to avoid going all-in – they want a window to win that stretches out forever. I think you can have that, although at a cost, in terms of a diminished chance to win in ht immediate future. In fairness to Gillis, if Vancouver had won that 2011 Stanley Cup, as they easily could have, nobody would be critical of that – people would be impressed that Vancouver had won their Stanley Cup and looked positioned to be a contender for a long time. The acquisition of Horvat ups the likelihood that the Canucks will be a really good team indefinitely, albeit maybe at a bit of a hit to their chances to win now. If you own the hockey team, you might prefer that but Stanley Cup banners hang from the rafters forever.

    Honestly, my biggest criticism of the way that the Canucks managed this whole thing was their failure to wrap it up, one way or another, last summer. They took an awfully big risk in holding on to Luongo, who wasn’t their preferred choice to keep, through the lockout, hoping that offers would get better on the other side of it. I’d be awfully interested to know about their internal discussions leading to that decision. Were the Canucks blindsided a bit by the cap recapture rule? Possibly. What seems obvious now, in terms of cap recapture coming, maybe wasn’t so obvious in the summer of 2012.

    All of that said, the Canucks seem to me to be a stronger team now than they were two days ago. They acquired a really good prospect in exchange for a slight reduction in the ability of their goaltending, given that only one goalie can play at a time. The price seems reasonable to me, given the way in which NHL teams have historically valued the possibility of striking gold in the draft. If the return seems to be something that helps in the future rather than now, well, that’s kind of been the way that the Canucks are operated. If you tend to think that a consistently well run team will win a Cup eventually, as I do, it’s hard to be too critical of that, even if you kind of look at the clock and wonder how much longer a Cup contender can be built around the Sedins.

    Email Tyler Dellow at mc79hockey@gmail.com

    About Tyler Dellow

    22 Responses to In defence of the Schneider return

    1. Darren
      July 1, 2013 at

      Technically the Leaf pick in the Toskala trade ended up being Lars Eller…the Sharks used the Leafs pick to trade up to get Couture. But your point is taken – everyone gets good return in goalie trades except Toronto, because of course.

    2. Triumph
      July 1, 2013 at

      As we debated yesterday before my team traded for Schneider, he just doesn’t have a bad year anywhere on his resume. That doesn’t necessarily suggest he’s an elite goaltender, but just not likely to fizzle out. As unproven goalies go, he’s as safe a bet as you can get. Any safer and teams tend not to deal these sorts of guys at all.

      I’m not fully comfortable with giving up 9th overall either – ideally NJ would’ve traded back a few slots, then given up their 1st round pick – but it’s hard to orchestrate that kind of deal.

      The thing about the Canucks is that it seems like they don’t have that promising a future even with Horvat. The reason their team is so expensive is that they are basically devoid of players on RFA only contracts. Everyone on their team signed either UFA deals or deals that included a bunch of UFA years. So you’ve got that, and I don’t think their system is that strong, so I’m a little surprised Gillis didn’t try to move the 9th overall pick. Maybe given the decreasing salary cap it’s hard to find anyone willing to deal players on ELCs. I mean, yeah, we tend to look down on shortsighted GMs who don’t take into account 5 years down the road, but this seems to be one of those cases where it’s justified.

    3. July 1, 2013 at

      Maybe this is one of those trades that works out for everybody. Vancouver needed some way to clean up the mess they’ve made there with the goalie situation and this probably figures to be their best return. From the Devils’ perspective, I like the trade, and while sometimes that means bad news for the other side, it doesn’t always necessarily have to be the case. It’s not a zero-sum game, which I think is the mistake people are making. Vancouver’s goaltending for the near future will take a minimal hit in quality and they acquired a good prospect in return. New Jersey’s goaltending was a time bomb which was already in the process of detonating and they got what looks to be a pretty solid solution while only parting with a singular upper-tier prospect. There doesn’t always have to be a loser.

      So I think the trade itself is pretty defensible for Vancouver, though I’m not sure I’d say the same about the handling of that Lu/Schneider situation as a whole.

    4. todd
      July 1, 2013 at

      I do not have a problem with the trade, however, taking horvat over nichuskin seemed odd to me, simply because nichuskins skill set is rare. Horvats big upside is being able to do it all, my view is that in the top 10 and for that matter the first round you should be picking super high celing guys like nichuskin because in 5 years nichuskin could be putting up 50/90 while horvat might be scoring 25/60. Although I guess i might have to eat crow in 5 years if nichuskin is playing in Russia, but I really do not like this pick. Your point about having chance to acquire a “life changing” player is what really makes me question this. Is Horvat a life changing player? I would contend he is not and that nichuskin certainly will be, especially if he could have played with the sedins. As a side note I would love to see some of the deals gillis has received for Luongo or schnieder over this saga, I would be shocked if this was the best. It may be the best deal at the present time but I am not buying it was the best he could have gotten over the past 2 years.

    5. todd
      July 1, 2013 at

      I mean christ in 5 years Canucks are gunna be playing a combo of Nichuskin and Benn… have fun with that I am totally convinced they botched this pick, although, that botch might be mitigated by grabbing shinkurak in the mid 20′s that was a steal

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    8. KParkins
      July 1, 2013 at

      I absolutely think Gillis had the right idea. Schneider’s played less than 100 games and faced less than 3000 shots, so while it’s probably a decent bet to think he’ll be a top 10 goaltender right now we don’t know. If the Oilers traded Dubnyk straight across for the ninth overall pick I’d be pretty happy with the deal.

      I soured on Horvat due to Scott Reynolds work on him at Copper & Blue so I don’t particularly like that aspect of the deal for Vancouver.

    9. Jerome
      July 1, 2013 at

      If i was the GM of Vancouver I would have gone to the Flyers and proposed a trade

      Schneider for Sean Couturier.

      Immediate help a two way center and a higher upside than Horvat

    10. Rick
      July 1, 2013 at

      I suspect the Aquilini’s had a hand in this, they got frustrated and told Gillis to trade him at the draft

    11. SKINNY65
      July 1, 2013 at

      I agree with your main points, but the problem I have with the trade comes in one of your assumptions.

      “Assuming that Mike Gillis took the best offer available to him,”

      From the media reports this doesn’t seem to have been the case. As an Oilers fan I am immensely happy that Gillis didnt take what the Oiler offered, but from the Vancouver point of view I think he made a huge mistake.
      His fear of Schneider playing him 6 times a year forced him to leave assets on the table and he in fact made his team worse then it needed to be.
      I think this is just a disgraceful decision that shows he’s more worried about how he is perceived then making the team better.
      And frankly, something like that should be a firing offense.
      Though I sure have my doubts about MacT after hearing what he was willing to give up to marginally improve his goaltending.

      • lb71
        July 2, 2013 at

        I agree with you. After the trade, Dreger announced that Edmonton had offered their first pick (#7), another pick and a prospect. Curious if any specifics came out.

        • Doogie2K
          July 3, 2013 at

          I thought it was the other way around: the Canucks wanted more from a division rival, and MacTavish wasn’t willing to pull the trigger on it.

    12. July 1, 2013 at

      I think the correct answer to the lottery ticket question is that you should be compensated for the risk you’re taking and pay something less than $10,000. If you pay more than $10,000, you’re paying for the entertainment value that some people get from gambling and/or dreaming about winning, but not making a good financial decision. The insurance industry is premised on the idea that people should (and will) pay a small premium to avoid those kinds of swings.

      Other than that, I’m on board with your take. If we’re trying to pick the goalies who’ll have the highest cumulative save percentage over the next five years, then (assuming we’re adjusting for NJ’s stingy scorer) I’d have Schneider at somewhere around 5th. But even so, he’s not proven yet, and he doesn’t come at much of a discount ($4M per for the next two years and market rate after that).

      The high pick is riskier but neither side is a sure thing. The odds are better on Schneider, but the cap savings payoff is lower. I find it hard to criticize the return in either direction — whether the move improves the team is a separate question, but it seems like reasonably equitable value.

    13. Eric
      July 1, 2013 at

      It could be argued that the Varlamov deal and the Schneider deal were the same value at the time they were made. The second draft pick in the Varlamov deal would act as compensation for the side risk of the first round draft pick.

    14. Jeff J
      July 2, 2013 at

      Who’s to say this wasn’t all just an elabotare pump n’ dump. They did it with Hodgson.

      I haven’t followed the story so what follows might be complete nonsense: Just how credible are the reports that they were trying to trade Luongo? Who in their right mind would want his contract? If it is taken as a given that, because of his contract, Luongo has to be your guy until the day a buyout outperforms him, then how do you get value for Schneider? First you would have to turn him into a #1. To do that you’d have to give Schneider starts. That means pacifying Luongo with assurances about trading him and “leaking” things to the “media” to support those assurances.

      That Schneider is(?) the better player is entirely beside the point. This was about getting value for an unusable asset. The value (high-ish 1st round pick) certainly wasn’t there last summer, and Luongo was just as untradeable.

    15. Woodguy
      July 2, 2013 at

      I posted this at Lowetide on draft morning:

      The stats community has a bit of consensus on how to rate goalies.
      The stat that generally gives the best idea of quality of the goalie is 5v5 SV%.
      Its subject to much less fluctuations in performance than 4v5 SV% (and consequently overall SV%)
      Its not perfect, but its the best they can figure so far.

      WIth that in mind, here are the top 30 5v5 SV% for the last 3 years in the NHL:

      In order to qualify a goalie must have played at least 30% of their teams’ games. This past year that means 14 games was the cut off, in other years 25 games.

      12/13
      Craig Anderson 0.943
      Sergei Bobrovsky 0.941
      Tomas Vokoun 0.940
      Tuukka Rask 0.938
      Henrik Lundqvist 0.937
      Jimmy Howard 0.937
      Jonas Hiller 0.936
      Corey Crawford 0.934
      Jonathan Bernier 0.932
      Braden Holtby 0.931
      Cory Schneider 0.931
      Antti Niemi 0.930
      Ryan Miller 0.928
      Pekka Rinne 0.927
      Marc-Andre Fleury 0.927
      Ben Bishop 0.927
      Ray Emery 0.927
      Viktor Fasth 0.926
      Jason LaBarbera 0.925
      James Reimer 0.924
      Kari Lehtonen 0.924
      Mike Smith 0.924
      Devan Dubnyk 0.922
      Carey Price 0.920
      Dan Ellis 0.920
      Roberto Luongo 0.920
      Ben Scrivens 0.920
      Martin Brodeur 0.919
      Brian Elliott 0.917
      Cam Ward 0.917

      11/12
      Brian Elliott 0.945
      Jaroslav Halak 0.938
      Mike Smith 0.936
      Jonathan Quick 0.933
      Henrik Lundqvist 0.933
      Niklas Backstrom 0.931
      Cory Schneider 0.931
      Roberto Luongo 0.929
      Jimmy Howard 0.929
      Tukka Rask 0.929
      Pekka Rinne 0.928
      Miikka Kiprusoff 0.928
      Jose Theodore 0.928
      Tim Thomas 0.927
      Devan Dubnyk 0.927
      Tomas Vokoun 0.927
      Jhonas Enroth 0.927
      Antti Niemi 0.926
      Kari Lehtonen 0.926
      Jean-Sebastien Giguere 0.924
      Semyon Varlamov 0.923
      Josh Harding 0.923
      Curtis Sanford 0.923
      Ryan Miller 0.922
      Scott Clemmensen 0.922
      Ilya Bryzgalov 0.921
      Craig Anderson 0.920
      Cam Ward 0.919
      Johan Hedberg 0.919
      Carey Price 0.918
      James Reimer 0.918

      10/11
      Tim Thomas 0.947
      Roberto Luongo 0.934
      James Reimer 0.933
      Cory Schneider 0.933
      Pekka Rinne 0.932
      Carey Price 0.931
      Ilya Bryzgalov 0.931
      Antti Niemi 0.931
      Jonas Hiller 0.931
      Henrik Lundqvist 0.930
      Semyon Varlamov 0.930
      Kari Lehtonen 0.928
      Ondrej Pavelec 0.928
      Niklas Backstrom 0.928
      Cam Ward 0.927
      Marc-Andre Fleury 0.925
      Brian Boucher 0.925
      Tuukka Rask 0.925
      Ryan Miller 0.924
      Dwayne Roloson 0.924
      Corey Crawford 0.924
      Sergei Bobrovsky 0.923
      Michal Neuvirth 0.922
      Jonathan Quick 0.921
      Devan Dubnyk 0.921
      Johan Hedberg 0.920
      Jonathan Bernier 0.920
      Tomas Vokoun 0.919
      Scott Clemmensen 0.918
      Craig Anderson 0.917

      These players showed up in the top 15 every year in the last 3 years:

      Tukka Rask
      Hendrik Lundqvist
      Corey Schneider
      Pekka Rinne
      Hmmmmmmm.

      • nanodummy
        July 2, 2013 at

        And Luongo missed it during a shortened season where a handful of bad games put him in the backup seat. The question is: has Luongo truly declined to sub-average, or was this season a blip that a full 50 game season would mitigate with a couple of shutouts to offset a 7 goal blowout?

        We’ll see next year…

    16. July 3, 2013 at

      If you go WAY back, the Kings once traded the #8 pick to the Boston Bruins for goalie Ron Grahame … and the pick turned out to be Ray Bourque. Ooops!

    17. Howard Craddock
      July 5, 2013 at

      The Canucks should never have agreed to Corey’s being the no. 1 goalie for the team. Lou is a proven goalie and denutting him was just wrong. I hope he is forgiving and comes back and proves they made a mistake. Vancouver fans are the toughest on thier super-stars Roy Dewalt comes to mind, and after he took us to the grey-cup and won everybody saying forgive us Roy. WHERES THE LOYALTY.

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