Schneider has performed below average between the pipes in Newark for a few seasons now, but he has played horribly so far in 2019-20 (0-4-1, .852 save percentage in six games). The Devils called up goaltender Louis Domingue to replace Schneider, who will report to AHL Binghamton on Tuesday and attempt to find his game there if another team doesn't claim him from the waiver wire.
The Boston College product's star has fallen significantly since his peak, in which he led all NHL goalies with at least 100 games played in save percentage (.927) between 2011-12 and 2015-16. Since then, Schneider has produced increasingly mediocre seasons and battled groin and hip injuries along the way.
Schneider's NHL journey is not necessarily over, though — the Devils owe him $6 million each year through the 2021-22 season. High-quality play in the minors could see him return to the Devils soon enough; a chance remains that a team takes a chance on him during this waiver period and the eventual reality of the 2021 expansion draft looms over all long-term league transactions.
Let's take a look at the three most likely scenarios surrounding Cory Schneider's future:
He performs well in the AHL and returns to Devils this season
Schneider is playing the worst hockey of his NHL career. The Devils, circling the toilet as one of the league's worst teams, have been outscored 19-12 in six games with him in the net at even strength. According to Natural Stat Trick, the team's goal-scoring stats (-3 goal differential, 46.94% goals for) are slightly better with Mackenzie Blackwood between the pipes — which suggests it's not all Schneider's fault.
A demotion to the AHL for a veteran — and four-time All-Star — is embarrassing; however, Schneider needs to find his game and should earn plenty of minutes in a lower-pressure environment to adjust whatever technical problems he may face — along with regaining his confidence. That abysmal .852 save percentage should rise against lesser competition, and the 33-year-old will likely find himself returning to Newark at some point this year. After all, it's hard for New Jersey's brass to expect better results from an inexpensive, yet inexperienced Blackwood-Domingue tandem.
Placing Schneider on waivers is a temporary move — his salary cap hit makes it incredibly unlikely any team claims him. For better or worse, the Devils are stuck with Schneider for a few years more — he hasn't seen the last of the Prudential Center in red and black.
A team desperate for goaltending claims him on waivers
Which teams are allowing the most goals per game? The Detroit Red Wings (3.68), New York Rangers (3.61) and Los Angeles Kings (3.60) struggle most to keep the puck out of their net. Similarly, the San Jose Sharks (87.00 percent), Florida Panthers (88.15) and LA own the lowest team save percentages at even strength, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Are any of these clubs desperate enough to give Schneider a chance? Can any team even afford his salary?
The answer: yes, but also no.
Capfriendly lists six teams with $7 million or more in current cap space — meaning they could fit Schneider's contract in and still have a little wiggle room. Two of those teams (Detroit, Toronto) have significant contracts placed on long-term injured reserve (see: Marner, Mitch) that would make further navigating the salary cap even more difficult with Schneider's $6 million added in.
Detroit's future in net is uncertain — both Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier's contracts expire in the next two seasons. But they're in full rebuild mode and don't need to carry dead weight. Many of the teams that need goaltending help the most already employ an aging and overpaid goalie. The Blue Jackets lost theirs (Sergei Bobrovsky) in free agency and instead have trusted an inexperienced Joonas Korpisalo-Elvis Merzlikins tandem. They could give Schneider a new opportunity — but does any GM really want to commit to the rest of Schneider's contract?
He remains in the Devils organization, becomes a likely 2021 NHL Expansion Draft candidate
The expansion draft is still a ways away, but it's unlikely Seattle falls into the good fortune that allowed Marc-Andre Fleury to slip away to help kickstart the Vegas Golden Knights franchise. Schneider's contract expires after the 2021-22 season. Most of the league's highest-paid netminders will certainly be protected by their team in the coming expansion draft, but Seattle needs help reaching the salary cap floor in its first season of play. Other high-profile, highly-paid and under-performing players such as Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones may end up available for Francis' selection, but Schneider's contract expires first and therefore allows the NHL's 32nd team more financial freedom from the start.
This is all conjecture — the Seattle team is scouting the league as we speak, but we're still more than one year removed from this scenario fully playing out. Perhaps Schneider finds his game and finishes out his contract a hero with the Devils. Perhaps another team decides a change of scenery could help him return to form. Or perhaps we're looking at a future member of the Seattle [REDACTED].