For the third straight year, the New York Islanders have signed a veteran goalie in free agency. Where does Cory Schneider fit in, and why does he make sense?
One of my favorite pieces I’ve written was my interview with former New York Islanders goaltender turned radio talk show host Rick DiPietro in the summer of 2019. Since then, I’ve seen topics we discussed come up in major stories in the NHL. For example, we briefly talked about the Islanders’ planned new arena in Belmont, which had their plans released last summer.
Another thing I was excited to discuss with DiPietro was how General Manager Lou Lamoriello adds goalies to his Islanders roster. In consecutive summers, the Islanders added former castoffs, Robin Lehner and Semyon Varlamov. DiPietro said to trust Lou when it comes to goalies, citing his experience with Martin Brodeur when he was with the New Jersey Devils.
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For the third straight year, Lamoriello has signed a free agent goalie to the Islanders, and this time it’s Cory Schneider. Schneider was acquired by Lamoriello during his time with New Jersey for the 9th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft from the Vancouver Canucks. Schneider was seen as the heir to Brodeur but, having a poor team in front of him, along with his injuries, led to a mostly unsuccessful tenure with New Jersey.
During the Devils’ only Playoff season in Schneider’s time in the Garden State, in 2017-18, Keith Kinkaid was the starting goaltender down the stretch as Schneider recovered from injury.
There are a few different things with Islanders goaltending than the previous two seasons, however. First off, the crease is no longer being shared with Thomas Greiss. Second, and most noteworthy to Islanders fans, is that goaltender Ilya Sorokin is making his long-awaited NHL debut.
According to Head Coach Barry Trotz, the lack of travel in the shortened NHL schedule this season makes it easier to divide playing time between his goalies and add Sorokin to the mix. Sorokin needs to get acquainted with the NHL style of play since he has yet to play professionally in North America. This is something that can work into Schneider’s favor.
Also working in Schneider’s favor is that Trotz and the Islanders use their two goalies as a “1A and 1B” instead of the traditional starter and backup roles to divide the workload. Schneider excelled sharing the crease with Roberto Luongo in Vancouver, and he split the crease pretty evenly in his first year in New Jersey with Brodeur. As age and injuries have had an effect on Schneider, he should be relieved knowing he won’t be expected to start anywhere near 30 games.
But where does Sorokin fit into this? The Islanders and their fans have high hopes for the goaltender and want to see him sooner instead of later. After the successful debut of Igor Shesterkin with the rival New York Rangers last season, fans might be impatient. As for that second goalie role, remember that Varlamov is already on the Islanders roster and had a better year last year than Schneider.
Last season Varlamov ended with a record of 19 wins, 14 regulation losses and 6 shootout or overtime losses and a 2.62 Goals Against Average, and a .914 Save Percentage. Those numbers won’t necessarily get him on the All-Star team, but it was good enough for Barry Trotz and his “play by committee” style of play.
Schneider finished his last season in New Jersey with three wins, six regulation losses, and two overtime or shootout losses to go along with his 3.53 Goals Against Average and a .887 Save Percentage. Don’t forget, he cleared waivers and was sent down to their AHL affiliate as well. Schneider eventually returned to the roster after the team traded Louis Domingue.
In a traditional year, having Schneider, Varlamov, and Sorokin under contract wouldn’t make sense, but this isn’t a traditional year. Under the NHL’s roster rules, including the “taxi squad,” every NHL team must have at least three goaltenders. More precisely, a team must have a goalie on the taxi squad unless their active roster already has three goalies. Either way, there will be room for Cory Schneider.
Schneider also came to the Islanders on a bargain contract. His one year deal has him at $700,000. Compare that to Lehner’s one year deal of $1.5 million with the Islanders and Varlamov’s current four-year deal paying him $5 million a year. Meanwhile, Sorokin’s current one-year deal is $2 million.
So why did the Islanders sign Cory Schneider? For the added assurance he brings, and he’s a cheap option to keep in hand in case an extra goalie is needed, or Sorokin doesn’t immediately live up to expectations. Even if his career’s on the downturn, Schneider still brings a good body of goaltending work with him.
Will Schneider reinvigorate his career like Robin Lehner did a few short years ago? Probably not, but at this point having an NHL job is a win for Schneider.
Considering how other goalies have fared under Lou Lamoriello, Cory Schneider is in a good place.