"I'm sorry, what?"
NEWARK -- Gary Bettman strode to the podium and was met with his usual chorus of boos. He reminded the crowd that he was only there to announce the beginning of the hometown New Jersey Devils' draft clock for the ninth overall pick. The jeering turned to cheering.
It got even louder when, seconds later, he returned to the podium and said, "We have a trade to announce."
The Devils weren't going to be drafting after all. The 9th overall pick had been traded to the Vancouver Canucks.
In exchange for Cory Schneider.
New Jersey went nuts. One imagines Vancouver (and Roberto Luongo) did too, as one of the craziest chapters in Canucks history got the big twist ending it deserved. This is Norman Bates in dress and wig at the end of Psycho.
It's been no secret that the Canucks have been trying to trade Luongo and his self-professed sucky contract for quite some time, but on Saturday, rumours began to spread that the team was listening to offers for the much more tradeable Schneider -- who is 27, of comparable skill to Luongo, and has just two more years left on a deal paying him $4 million.
I suspected it was a ploy to gain leverage for the inevitable and preferable Roberto Luongo trade, especially after Gillis did nothing to quash the rumours at his media availability later in the day.
But it wasn't a ploy. Schneider is now on his way to New Jersey, where he'll be the heir apparent to the throne of Martin Brodeur, goaltending legend and NHL 14 cover boy.
“We wanted to get into the top 10,” said Gillis on TSN. “There’s a lot of moving parts in these trades, and it was complicated towards the end.”
Luongo appeared to have divorced himself from the Canucks in the recent months. Is that a concern for Gillis?
“Perhaps," Gillis said. "But Roberto has been excellent throughout this entire ordeal.”
“People like to forget it became awfully complicated with the lockout and the new CBA. They changed the rules regarding contracts.”
Meanwhile, while the Canucks' goaltending soap opera turns a page, the Devils have quietly shored up their net -- a constant since the 90s -- for, potentially, the next decade. Plus they gave their fans a moment to remember.
And all it cost them was a first round pick. From that perspective, and contrasted with the mess Gillis still has waiting for him in Vancouver, Lou Lamoriello looks like a master.
With the acquired pick, the Canucks selected Bo Horvat, a highly-skilled, two-way centre from the London Knights.
"I was really surprised," Horvat said. "It's definitely shocking sitting there but [...] anything can happen. It's really humbling that they traded a guy for me and I'm just really happy to be part of the organization."
But they didn't just trade a guy. They ended a full-blown saga. The weight of expectations on this kid's shoulders just became flipping immense.