Top prospect trade bait?

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Cory Schneider has been through this situation before and chances are pretty good it is something that will become an annual rite of spring until he establishes himself as a bona fide starter at the next level.

With less than two weeks to go before the NHL trade deadline, some folks are wondering if the parent Vancouver Canucks will package their top prospect in an effort to take a serious run at the Stanley Cup.

Schneider heard the whispers around the deadline last season and he's heard some chatter this time around, but he's not about to let rumours interrupt what has been an outstanding season for both him and the Manitoba Moose.

"There's so much speculation. I thought there was a more realistic chance of being moved last year than this year, but you never know," Schneider said earlier this week before the Moose hit the road to continue a stretch of 10 games away from the MTS Centre. "It's a business and teams have to do what they have to do to make their push."

The Canucks don't have any goaltending depth under contract past this season beyond Roberto Luongo and Schneider, so dealing the potential goalie of the future could be a gamble -- especially since Luongo can't be signed to a long-term extension until July 1.

But Canucks general manager Mike Gillis isn't afraid to make bold moves, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Schneider is prepared to deal with whatever happens come March 4, but he's hoping to lead the Moose to the promised land this spring.

"It would be disappointing because I like this organization and the guys that we have here," said Schneider. "I'm here now and hopefully I'll be here a month from now."

Schneider is 20-3-1 in 25 appearances with the Moose this season and has a 1.62 goals against average and .938 save percentage to go along with four shutouts.

With 23 games left in the regular season, Schneider is closing in on the franchise record for most wins in a season, currently held by Wade Flaherty (who had 26 in 2005-06).

"That really never occurred to me, I just wanted to improve on last season and continue the momentum I had in the second half of the season," said Schneider, who was 20-12-2 with a 2.28 goals against average in 36 games in 2007-08. "I'm glad that I've been able to continue where I left off (before his recall to the Canucks on Nov. 22) and proved the first half (of 2008-09) wasn't a fluke."

Moose head coach Scott Arniel has been impressed by the way Schneider has maintained his elite level of play through the AHL season -- especially after dealing with some adversity during his first taste of NHL action.

"Every goaltender is going to get the highs-and-lows but he's done a very good job of keeping a very even keel," said Arniel. "I was expecting a drop-off after he came back from Vancouver, but he's handled the transition very well. He's a guy who's really focused on his career and where he wants to get to.

"He's a guy we look to for a lot of leadership, but he lets his goaltending do a lot of the talking for him."

The league-leading Moose face the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena today at 6:05 p.m.


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