The host team makes most shocking move of the first round without even selecting a player.
It was the perfect scene for what every Devils fan had imagined ever since it was announced that New Jersey would be the site for the 2013 NHL Draft.
The host team had a high pick in a deep draft that featured a lot of talent, especially at the offensive positions which the Devils desperately needed.
When it was announced that New Jersey was on the clock, the crowd went into a frenzy, and a chant of “Let’s Go Devils” broke out from the spectators. New Jersey was almost a lock to pick a skilled player that would immediately help their offensive woes.
But time on the clock continued to dwindle, and the crowd started to become nervous; would the Devils really trade away their top draft pick for picks in later rounds or for picks in future drafts? Would they let their home fans down?
Soon enough, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stepped up the podium in front of a packed Prudential Center, and said:
“The New Jersey Devils have traded their first round pick to the Vancouver Canucks.”
The once happy crowd turned hostile, booing as loud as they could at Bettman, as if he orchestrated the trade himself. Every Devils fan in the arena wanted to see a young stud be selected, someone who could join the line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias.
Bettman waited for the boo’s to tire out, and finally carried on:
“I think you’re going to want to hear this. New Jersey trades the 9th selection in the 2013 NHL Draft to Vancouver in exchange for goalie Cory Schneider.”
Applause. Jubilation. Celebration. Forgiveness. Those words all described how the New Jersey faithful acted once they heard the news of what the trade consisted of, and they had every right to act as excited as they did.
For a few years now, the elephant in the room, or at least the one slipping and sliding on the hockey rink, has been what will happen to the Devils once legendary goalie Martin Brodeur retires. Every year, Brodeur would get a 365 days older, but still put up great numbers between the pipes. He defied the odds, fended off Father Time, and made the New Jersey franchise and their fan base have a false sense of security that “as long as we have Marty, we’ll be ok!”
However, a strong taste of reality hit the Devils this past season, as the 40 year old goalie only started 29 of their 48 games due to a neck injury. The backup goalie, Johan Hedberg, who was 39 last year, went 3-8-2 during the stretch when Brodeur was hurt.
Consequently, the Devils did not make the playoffs, and it seemed like it would be a long time until they could recover from Brodeur retiring.
That all changed Sunday night when they traded their 9th overall pick to get Cory Schneider. Schneider, 27, has established himself as an elite goalie in the NHL, posting a 16-4 record in the 2010-2011 season and 20-8 and 17-9 marks the following two years. He also has a career GAA (goals allowed average) of 2.20 and set Vancouver's single season goals against average record with 1.96 during the 2011-2012 campaign. He also has a very good career save percentage of .927.
Even though Devils fans did not see a young hockey star put on the red and black Devils jersey and be presented to the hockey world to see, they got something even better, an incredible backup goalie to give Brodeur plenty of days off to stay fresh during this season, and a great player to lead this team between the pipes in the future.
Nolan Silbernagel covers the NHL (Devils) and MLB (Yankees) for WFUV Sports.