New Jersey Devils: Corey Crawford is a marked improvement over Cory Schneider

Corey Crawford is a different kind of veteran goalie for the New Jersey Devils.

For a good chunk of the 2010s, Cory Schneider was a player the New Jersey Devils could rely on.

A left-handed native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, Schneider parlayed a three-year stint at his hometown(ish) Boston College into a first-round selection in the 2004 NHL Draft – where he was ultimately selected 26th overall by the Vancouver Canucks. After spending the better part of three years with the Manitoba Moose, Schneider joined the big club full-time in 2010 and played three excellent seasons – including a Jennings Trophy-winning campaign in 2010-11 – before being ‘shockingly‘ traded to the Devils for the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft; a pick that was eventually used to select London’s Bo Horvat.

Retrospectively, maybe the Devils should have taken Horvat themselves, as the 25-year-old has scored at least 20 goals in each of the last four seasons, but hey, that’s why they say hindsight’s 20-20.

After splitting time with Martin Brodeur during his first campaign with the team, the Devils left little doubt about who their ‘franchise’ goalie would be moving forward, giving Schneider a seven-year, $42 million extension to serve as their starter for the foreseeable future.

Fast forward to November of 2020, and Schneider is an unrestricted free agent, having been bought out of his contract after two underwhelming seasons from 2018-20.

While it’s a bit unfortunate to watch the once-great butterfly goalie fall from grace as he fades from his prime, the Devils simply had to get better production out of the position to even have a chance of ascending the ranks of the very formidable Metropolitan Division, especially as the top teams fortified their ranks in free agency.

Do you typically do that by replacing a 34-year-old goalie with a 35-year-old goalie? Not usually, but then again, Corey Crawford isn’t your usual goalie.

On paper, Crawford and (vintage) Schneider have a lot in common. Both hold a career save percentage of 91.8, have nine assisted goals to their names, and even won the Jennings Trophy for having the fewest goals scored against in a season (in case you didn’t know).

The difference? Crawford is still a top-tier goalie well worth the two-year, $7.8 million he signed with the Devils after 17(!) seasons with the Blackhawks organization.

Measuring in at 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, Crawford has notched 1,000 plus saves in eight of the last 10 seasons, including in six of his last seven. While some initially thought Crawford’s career was starting to decline in 2017-18, as the then-33-year-old suffered a pair of injuries that limited his season to only 28 games before landing on IR, ‘The Crow’ quickly silenced any doubts with two solid seasons in 2018-19, and 2019-20 that matched many of his performances from the decade prior.

Crawford also brings some experience, grit, and pedigree to a Devils team that has only finished in the top half of the Metro three times in the last decade.

Now to be fair, Corey Crawford alone isn’t going to magically fix the New Jersey Devils. He’s still a 35-year-old goalie who will all but certainly split time with RFA Mackenzie Blackwood, assuming they can agree to an extension (please do that). With that being said, there’s a lot to get excited about The Crow’s addition to Newark’s finest, as he’s a proven commodity with a huge chip on his shoulder after talks broke down for an extension earlier this year. For the same price as Cory Schneider’s original 2020-21 contract number, the Devils were able to buy him out and sign a legitimate starting goalie to fill his skates – now that is good business.