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The New Jersey Devils’ $6,000,000 Problem

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The New Jersey Devils attempted to make their team more competitive this summer. After a lukewarm (at best) start of 4-5-4, we look today at a six million dollar problem that the team faces, and what can potentially be done to stop this problem from getting worse.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils have a problem, one that’s traveling with the team and costing them $6,000,000 against their salary cap for this season and the next pair as well. The problem’s name just so happens to be Cory Schneider. Due to injuries more so than Father Time, Schneider has left behind his years of elite-level goaltending and instead we now have a player whose save % indicates he’s a below-average player.

It pains me a bit to write the above paragraph, because I was extremely excited when the Devils first acquired Schneider way back in the summer of 2013. Even at 27 years old, there was hope for many good years of goaltending due to the fact that Cory had primarily been Roberto Luongo’s backup until the trade. His first year in New Jersey was spent splitting time with the legendary Martin Brodeur. After completion of that season, he only had appeared in 136 AHL and 144 NHL games; with an excellent save % each season up until that campaign’s conclusion, Cory was primed to be premiere for a long time.

In the Devils Dark Ages, Cory was the light that shone through; he posted a .921 during the split year with Brodeur. The next two season saw a .925 and .924 respectively; goaltending wasn’t the issue, we just needed some Goals for Cory. The 2016-17 season seemed to be where the stars would all align, as the Devils managed to acquire Taylor Hall, but Schneider would regress to a .908 and the Devils finished dead last in the East. The hope was that he could rebound in 2017-18, but despite a similar percentage of pucks being stopped by Schneider (.907), this is probably where the downfall began.

January of 2018 would see Cory injure his groin, and Keith Kinkaid would grab the reigns as the team’s starting netminder. Cory would struggle to return to any sort of consistent form, and Kinkaid would lead the Devils to their first postseason appearance since 2012. After Keith struggled, Cory would come in and provide elite numbers for three and a half games; a flicker of hope was alive.

2018-19 saw everything come crashing down; Cory’s goals against averaged ballooned to over three for the first time since his early career cup of coffee runs with the Canucks. His save percentage continued to trend downward, with way too many games of sub-.900 goaltending. Both he and Kinkaid were ineffective and injured at multiple points, to the point where MacKenzie Blackwood was recalled and infinitely more effective than either.

This season was supposed to see the healthiest Cory since pre-groin injury. This season was supposed to be his return to at least NHL-caliber play. This season had a bright outlook thanks to strong preseason play.

This season...nothing has changed. Cory had two strong periods against the Winnipeg Jets on opening night, and then he “cramped” and since those “cramps” took him out of that game, he has looked like the Schneider of the past few seasons: injured, rusty and just generally not an NHL player anymore. Again, with how bright the future looked with him, it pains me to write that.

The 2019-20 season was projected to be a resurgence for the team even within a competitive division and conference; they improved their defense and their secondary scoring. Yet with their current 4-5-4 record, the improvements haven’t shown just yet. More troubling in relation to Cory is that all four wins belong to Mac. One of the most important factors heading into the season for the success of the group was strong goaltending and right now, that isn’t always the case.

The Devils need a win tonight; picking one up against a somewhat struggling Calgary Flames team (they’re not as high in the standings as they were last season) could do wonders for morale and confidence going forward. It certainly could continue to lift them through this rough Western Canada trip. As such, the Devils should staple, super glue, duct tape or otherwise find a way to affix Cory to the bench tonight. Blackwood has had some rough games this season (and some rough luck) but he has put together at least a few good to great performances. I can’t say the same for Schenider outside of again the first two periods of the season.

The Devils want (and somewhat need) this to be a successful season; to achieve their goal, however, may require a tough decision when attempting to solve their $6,000,000 problem.

What do you think about the case of this problem for the New Jersey Devils? Should the team try and get Schneider to fight back to form? Should they waive him and send him down to Binghamton? Could they possibly buy him out this summer or are they stuck with his contract and declining play? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!