Five days in July could define the Vancouver Canucks next season, and in subsequent seasons. They could reshape the goalie market in the NHL. They could bring bad blood between teams to a boiling point.
From July 1 through July 5, and barring his signing a long-term deal before June 30, the Vancouver Canucks will wait nervously as goalie Cory Schneider sits in his window of opportunity. For five days, another NHL team with the proper draft pick compensation could tender him an offer sheet as a restricted free agent.
Damien Cox of the Toronto Star proffered on Monday that the Toronto Maple Leafs should put "a huge, multi-year, multimillion offer sheet" on Schneider that, in theory, would give the Leafs the 26-year-old goalie's services or accelerate the trade of Roberto Luongo, whose time in Vancouver appears at an end. (We quietly hope for a New Orleans-style funeral on the Seaside bike path, playing an upbeat version of "Chelsea Dagger.")
As Pension Plan Puppets noted in its dissection of Cox's front-loaded 8 year, $40 million fantasy offer sheet, the Canucks could choose not to match it, keeping Luongo and the draft pick compensation from the Leafs. Toronto would then have the unique pleasure of having locked up a goalie that's never played more than 33 games in a season to a contract four years shy of Luongo's.
But if Brian Burke or another general manager really wanted to put the screws to the GM Mike Gillis and the Vancouver Canucks, they shouldn't go eight years — they should go with a 1-year offer sheet for Cory Schneider.
Let's say the Toronto Maple Leafs give a $5 million, 1-year offer sheet to Schneider.
The compensation level would be a first- and a third-round pick in 2013 should the Canucks choose not to match. But that's not why the Leafs go down this road; they do it with the expectation the Canucks match, with the hope that Luongo's pried loose and they're the only destination he'll choose.
Would Schneider sign it? Perhaps. The 1-year deal would carry a significantly higher salary than his arbitration salary, should the Canucks and their goalie reach that point after the five-day offer sheet period.
But more importantly, a 1-year contract takes Schneider through his 27th birthday in March 2013, and it expires that summer — when he reaches unrestricted free agency.
As one source told us recently about this scenario:
"You've effectively walked him out the door in Vancouver as a free agent."
Now, what if the Canucks panic, decide to keep Luongo and deal Schneider instead after matching the offer sheet? They can't, actually: The CBA mandates that the "prior club" that matches an offer sheet "may not trade that restricted free agent for a period of one year from the date it exercises its Right of First Refusal."
So even if they were sure he was going to test the market in Summer 2013, they'd be stuck with him.
What's the likelihood of this playing out? Who knows? It's all based on the assumption that Schneider would sign an offer sheet to make life uncomfortable for the team that's basically handed him the starting job. Which seems like a stretch.
If it's the Leafs that tender an offer sheet, it's to shake Luongo free rather than retain Schneider for a year. And that's contingent on whether Brian Burke is the guy who treats offer sheets as a "part of the CBA" or who wants to challenge general managers to barn fights when they offer sheet his guys. Because he's been both.
The Canucks are precariously juggling a Luongo trade with Schneider's free agency. But even if the Leafs forced their hand with an offer sheet, would Gillis ever turn around and deal with Burke? Or is this scenario known to both teams, which could lead to a Luongo trade sooner rather than in the middle of the Free Agent Frenzy and a potential offer sheet to Schneider?
It wouldn't be the first time Burke used the threat of an offer sheet to get the price he wanted, after all.