‘Devils in the Details’
By Sean Hartnett
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It was only fitting that the New Jersey Devils stole the show from start to finish at the 2013 NHL Draft held inside their home at the Prudential Center.
General manager Lou Lamoriello pulled off a deal that will be remembered as one of the biggest steals in recent NHL history by robbing the Vancouver Canucks of elite goaltender Cory Schneider in the first round.
When commissioner Gary Bettman arrived at the podium while the Devils were on the clock with the No. 9 overall pick, something was up. In typical fashion, Bettman was greeted with loud jeers. “I think you want to hear this,” Bettman said as the crowd went silent. The announcement would soon send shock waves through the hockey world.
Much to the surprise of the Devils fans gathered inside, Lamoriello completed a masterstroke trade by sending the team’s top pick to Vancouver and got in return a 27-year-old goaltending phenom in Schneider. Immediately, a huge roar went up around the arena as Devils fans were overcome with a mix of pure shock and joyous disbelief.
Once considered untouchable, the Canucks floated Schneider’s name on the trade block in the days leading up to the draft as moving Roberto Luongo’s long-term contract proved impossible. Lamoriello was able to take advantage of Vancouver’s desperation to shed salary and its preference to keep Schneider away from division-rival Edmonton.
The question of how the Devils would eventually replace iconic netminder Martin Brodeur has finally been solved.
“I think for the future of the organization, it’s the best move,” Brodeur said. “Cory is one of the top five goalies in my mind in the NHL. I’m not going to play forever, I know that.”
Instead of having to suffer through the headaches and growing pains of developing an in-house solution, Lamoriello acquired a top-level goalie who is capable of pushing the 41-year-old Brodeur for the remainder of his career. And he won’t be overwhelmed by the task of filling the skates of a legend.
SCHNEIDER READY TO COMPETE
Schneider is looking at his new opportunity with an open mind and understands the benefit of soaking in Brodeur’s example.
“I don’t think you replace Marty Brodeur,” Schneider said in a conference call. “I don’t think anyone is gonna replace what he does for that franchise and has done for a long, long time. My hope is that I come in and learn from him, and take away things that make him so successful. Hopefully, I can continue the work he’s done in New Jersey. I accept that challenge and I’m ready for it.”
Lamoriello feels it’s important to ease Brodeur’s workload during the 2013-14 season, which is packed with back-to-back games due to the Sochi Olympic break. Having Schneider around will keep Brodeur fresh.
“Marty is still a No. 1 goaltender. There’s no question there. It’s just a question of how much he can play to keep him at the top of his game,” Lamoreillo said. “The back-to-back games, and certainly with the Olympic year, where there’s going to be a condensed schedule — this gives us that transition we feel we would have loved to have gotten maybe a year ago, if it was possible.”
Lamoriello believes Brodeur will do everything possible to mentor Schneider.