What Would You Do Thursday: Which Goalie to Trade?

Welcome to a mid-week favourite feature here on Canucks Army and all sites on the Nation Network: What Would You Do Thursday, where we put you, yes YOU, in charge of your own imaginary Vancouver Canucks. We’ll present you with a different scenario each week, and you tell us how you’d solve it in the comments section below. Give props to the answers you do like and trash the ones you don’t. Easy! So let’s get started: 

The last time out, we asked you if you thought the Vancouver Canucks should be trade deadline buyers like Jim Benning suggested they would be, or if they should sell everything that’s not bolted down. In general, given that Vancouver was and still is in a playoff position, not many of you favoured a full-on tear down at this point in time, but at the same time wouldn’t give up any future assets to make a run. In the words of Jamie E:

Should not be buyers, but should definitely be vultures. If teams who are buyers need to shed salary or open up roster spots for a potential acquisition, I have no problem with the Canucks picking up a useful (young) piece or two for cheap.
If the Canucks fall out of playoff contention, like last year, I hope Benning will be an AGGRESSIVE seller – and should be asking/pressuring vets like Bieksa/Higgins/Burrows to waive NTCs and NMCs.
Unlike others, I am not a proponent of trying to push the Sedins out the door. They deserve to stay lifetime Canucks if they wish to – and with their dual contracts I think we’d end up giving them away for very little anyways.

And Goon echoed a similar sentiment:

The Canucks should be neither buyers nor sellers at the deadline. The team isn’t good enough that they should be sacrificing long-term growth for a short-term run, but they’re also not bad enough that they should be blowing the team up and starting from scratch.
If the Canucks are going to make trades down the stretch, they should do it with an eye to balance – is it a “hockey trade” – does it address the team’s needs now *and* going forward? If they can land a top-4 defenceman with another year on his contract at a reasonable price, do it – the team needs that, now and in the future. If they’re offered a middle-six centre at a reasonable price, do it – the team needs that now, and they’ll need that in the future. But don’t go out and trade for guys on expiring deals in exchange for picks and prospects – the team isn’t good enough to make that a worthwhile investment.

The only “Canucks should be buyers” take that really got any traction was van Malmsteen’s, and I gotta admit, it’s pretty bang-on. A George Foreman grill carried me through university after all:

The Canucks should for sure be buyers. I would suggest first buying a George Foreman grill – no sense in eating fatty fried foods when watching the playoffs at home when you can eat delicious, healthy grilled meats.

On to this week’s order of business: figuring out what Vancouver should do with their goaltender situation. You’ll know by now that the Canucks are looking to move one of 27-year old Eddie Lack or 25-year old Jacob Markstrom, and it’s essentially a foregone conclusion that one of these two is dealt by the time the entry draft rolls around.

Originally, the plan appeared to be to move Markstrom as the Canucks were not afraid to expose him on waivers to send him to Utica. Markstrom went unclaimed, but his play with the Comets has been so strong that the organization is apparently having second thoughts about moving the no-longer-young goalie, envisioning him instead as a Ben Bishop-type late bloomer.

While that’s certainly possible, especially because like Bishop, Markstrom is dominating the AHL at 25, has always posted very strong numbers below the NHL level, and stands above 6’5 tall, it seems unlikely since Markstrom has been a train wreck in his limited NHL action. Between 2007-2014, Markstrom was 102nd out of 106 NHL goalies in even strength save percentage in over 1,000 minutes played. The only guys worse? Johan Holmqvist, Andrew Raycroft, Reto Berra, and Anntti Raanta. Then again, Bishop was awful too before he got good.

It’s not as if this season is a notable step forward for Markstrom either, since he appeared to be around this strong in the AHL in 2011-2012:

On the other hand, Eddie Lack is a more known commodity at the NHL level. Between 2007-2014, Lack posted essentially the same even strength save percentage as Ryan Miller did: a very respectable 0.925. Still, Lack’s 41 games likely aren’t entirely reflective of his true talent level, but at least he has NHL success under his belt, unlike Markstrom.

Lack may yield more value in a trade though, seeing as all 29 other teams have already passed on Markstrom and Devan Dubnyk, a career NHLer with a track record of moderate success, was dealt for a 3rd rounder. Lack likely won’t yield a 2nd round pick or a top-end prospect, but a 3rd rounder seems like a reasonable return to ask for.

So, what do you do? Do you trade Jacob Markstrom now that he’s on an expiring contract and his value is higher than it’s ever been? Or do you trade the more proven but slightly older Eddie Lack with the hope that Markstrom is legit. Let us know in the comments!

    • Ruprecht

      Honestly, this is it. I would build a time machine, go back in time and not sign Miller in the first place. Having said that, if there’s any way they can move him (even if the return is subpar or minimal or a roll of hockey tape) that is the best step to take. Nothing we’ve seen this year gives the indication that Miller + Lack is better than Lack + Markstrom. The former will not be as good in the long term and is certainly more expensive in the short term.

      As an aside, I think Eriksson deserves to play in the NHL, even if in a backup role. He may also have enough value to get a decent return before he leaves of his own accord.

  • Canucksfan3322

    As others have said, if I could go back in time and not sign Miller, that’s what I’d do.

    Since that’s not possible, and I also don’t see being able to trade him, at least not before we lose one of the younger goalies….

    UGH. I’d trade Lack. I hate myself for even saying that. It’s awful. I love him. He is like unicorns and candy and puppies and rainbows.

    That being said… he would get the best return. And did we learn nothing from the Luongo-Schneids situation? Schneids should have been traded as soon as it became clear he was too good to be a backup. His value was highest then, and we would have got way more for him if we weren’t completely backed into a corner.

    There is a caveat to all of this though, and that is that I’ve heard rumours that Markstrom is already wanting out of the organization, regardless of what happens with Lack. If that is the case, then obviously you have to keep Lack and try to trade Markstrom. No sense going into RFA negotiations with someone who doesn’t want to be here, he will just make trouble. I kinda doubt there is any truth to this though, I assume Markstrom would be happy to come up to Van and play here if Lack is traded, just doesn’t want to stay in the AHL.

    • Larionov18

      I agree. That Markstrom crap was started by Tony G who thinks every Canuck prospect should ask to be traded or has asked if they are not given top 6 minutes right away.

  • Ruprecht

    Lack, still a young goalie, has shown at time that under pressure, he can be shakey. I think Benning & co wanted shelter Lack from the spotlight of being a #1 goalie whereby the media mantra is “Vancouver” + “goalie” = “controversy”. The team wants to build players and not stub their development. I too am smitten by Lack and his rainbows & lucky charms but trading Markstrom without a serious look with the big club is risky and would be a mistake. Markstrom

    IMO Benning, a new GM to the league, needed to
    1) get the Sedin’s buy in, give them one last kick at the can out of respect before the blow-up
    2) show he can sign & bring in free agents and
    3) hoping to boost Lack/Markstrom’s market worth by signing up Miller.

    I would trade Miller for assets, even if we retained part of his salary cap.

    • Ruprecht

      This is a time machine I can get behind. I say to Columbus for Carter plus. If we don’t make the move perhaps one of our rivals might, and that could come back to bite us for years to come.

  • Dirty30

    Can we trade Ownership?

    I get Aqullini wants to make money but putting another patch on this old inner tube of a team is just a blowout waiting to happen.

    I get this core believes it can win but I believe I can score with hot chicks and both of us are in a drought.

    Trade a goalie? Sure — Miller, Markstrom , Lack in that order.

    Miller-lite is just Luongo-lite minus the personality plus the cost.

    Markstrom may not get you a lot but there’s two guys nipping his heels and this opens their road.

    Lack demonstrated some fragility under Coach Crazy and may not fetch much at all if he’s seen as a weak link to carry some team into the play-offs. Sure, you can try to sell him as a back-up but goalies get injured and then he’s the show.

    There are bigger problems than who’s in goal for the Canucks because ever since Luongo arrived the only task has been to score more goals than he let in … They did it up to Game 7 … Not so much now.

  • Steampuck

    I’ll sort of umpteenth the sentiment that the Miller signing was a bad idea. A one-year deal, and I’d be all over it. But three years kills any of that enthusiasm. Already this year, he’s flashed brilliant play but he’s also looked pretty run-down at times, too. That can only get worse. And he’s not a marked improvement on Lack, who’s a lot cheaper and younger.

    Best case scenario (and you never wish injury on anyone): a cup contender loses their goalie around the trade deadline, and we can unload Miller (assuming a cup run might get Miller to waive his NTC) in order to move ahead next year with a cheaper and younger goaltending duo. I can live with Lack starting, so long as he’s spelled more than he was at the tail-end of last year. Or, better, yet: Markstrom’s actually turned the corner and you have a platoon.

    As ever in Canuckland, there’s no good decision. I don’t like the play, but I think I’ll hold onto all three if at all possible (without breaking the bank). If Markstrom becomes the next Bishop, there’ll be hell to pay if he’s not in blue and green. If he’s Reto Berra and we’ve just dealt Lack, it’ll be even worse. Regardless, any move needs to be a package deal that makes the team younger. I’d take prospects over picks, especially if we can move out some of the aging core…

    Finally, I don’t get this “Lack is fragile” stuff. The guy basically got hung out to dry for a bazillion games in a row. In front of a team that couldn’t buy a goal. And by a coach who had by that point mailed it in. I don’t think we have a good read on Lack’s ability yet. The data is too noisy. But if he’s somewhere closer to his spot duty at the beginning of last year than he is to the way he had to finish the season, then I can sleep at night with him as a modest starter.

  • Ruprecht

    Like others have said, I would trade Miller if possible.

    With regards to Markstrom: one of the best articles on this site was regarding the difficulty in evaluating goalies with small sample sizes.
    The take home message of the article was that you need about 3000 shots before you can really judge whether a goalie is good or bad. Markstrom has faced less than half that at the NHL level, so we can’t really judge him yet. Did he have a good start to his career? No. Is he a mental case that is never going to succeed in the NHL? Who knows.
    What Markstrom has done is dominate every other league he has played in. The fact that he isn’t being given a shot in the NHL is crazy, and I think shows the lack of spine in the Canucks organization – they are so unwilling to take chances that they are going to end up floundering in mediocrity until the end of time. We would rather spend 6 million in cap space on a ‘proven’ goalie for three years than take any sort of chance with two promising young goalies.

  • Ruprecht

    Another vote for Miller.

    If we’re dead set on making this discussion Markstrom v. Lack, I think I’d have to change my vote to “nobody”. If you’re speculating that the best we could get in return is a third-round pick, I’m having a lot of trouble getting excited about a swap. I’m increasingly concerned about the aging core at this point, so I’d prefer any exchange be a so-called “hockey trade”: get somebody young in who helps us now and a few years from now.

    That’s something worth a bit more investigation, actually. Were we to swap a goalie, who’d be in the market? Minnesota? And what would they or any other interested team have available to kick our way in return?

  • Ruprecht

    I recall reading recently that you don’t need an elite goaltender to win the Stanley Cup, you only need to not have a bad goaltender. I’m also in the “shouldn’t have signed Miller” camp because I think the Lack/Markstrom combo would have been sufficient to get back into the playoffs. Cap space would have been better spent resigning key players like Tanev.

  • Larionov18

    At this point it’s all about maximizing return and ensuring the securing the future of the position.

    Like it or not, Miller is here to stay for the remainder of this season and likely most of next season at a minimum. His play as been uneven but he is playing at an NHL average level – he isn’t going to drag this team passed round 2, but he isn’t going to blow up bad enough for the team to miss the playoffs. All that being said when taking into consideration his AAV, his trade value is very low and the Canucks will never get any kind of decent return for him in a trade.

    So Miller is definitely off the table.

    Eddie Lack is a half-proven goaltender who has played admirably the last two seasons in a back-up role but struggled in a starting role (probably due to being over played). He is at the age and has enough experience that people can safely gauge the player he is and what he can become. He isn’t young anymore and is nearing his peak as an average to slightly above-average NHL starter. Other temas know what they will be getting in Lack and can give up assets with confidence to get him.

    Jacob Markstrom. Incredible young goaltender with a high ceiling and the potential to be a top 10 goalie in the league. The Canucks could trade Markstrom on his potential but any return would not be enough if he turns into a top-10 goaltender. Plus trading him before giving him a legitimate chance in the NHL would be foolish.

    Lack is the meat-and-potatoes player, Markstrom is high risk/high reward. Markstrom is younger and has a higher ceiling, but Lack has more experience and can probably fetch a more realistic and equal return via a trade.

    To me the decision is easy, they have to make the gamble that Markstrom is going to be a top 10 goalie in the NHL and trade the ‘safe’ goalie in Lack.

    Trading Lack gives them the best chance at a fair return and leaves the line of succession clear for the time being. Miller – Markstrom – Ericsson – Demko.

  • Canucksfan3322

    I want to see Markstrom play another NHL game or two before we decide what to do with him. So for that reason I say trade Lack, realize we made a mistake in signing Miller and face our goal-tending death with dignity.

    #Captain goes with the ship.

  • Dirty30

    I wonder what it would take to get someone to take Miller off our hands — but I don’t see anyone being dumb enough to do it (other than alternate universe us). I wonder what Lack would actually fetch. As high as a third? I have a hard time imagining it. Dubnyk got a third but he has an arguably better track record. I cannot imagine Markstrom despite potential would get more than a 4th/5th given the actual situation (can’t call him up, apparently wants out — as cute as the “stash” move was for the Canucks in protecting an asset, I wondered at the time if it would piss him off).

  • Canucksfan3322

    I don’t think anyone else needs to really post anything anymore; I think we all know the winner is whoever says Miller should go.

    I agree wholeheartedly, as did many other Canucks fans as soon as he was signed…

    I don’t think anyone has any ill will towards him, but you just don’t need a 6 million dollar goalie. Period. If he was signed for 3-4, it would be easier to swallow, but one of the highest paid goalies who is really only average?

    It’s no surprise everyone says Miller. No surprise at all.

    Miller.

    Miller Miller Miller.

  • Steampuck

    I think people are over valuing Markstrom and under valuing Lack. Markstrom has proved nothing in the NHL other than show that he couldnt handle it. Lack showed similar numbers in the AHL and has shown a lot of promise. Since getting over his struggles early in the season, Lack has played very well, especially given his time off between games.
    Markstrom is a talent, undoubtedly, but whether or not that translates into being NHL talent remains to be seen.

    I said from the beginning I didnt like the Miller signing. We could have used those dollars on a top line forward and rolled the dice with Stork and Monster. No one had any expectations anyway for this season. If we fail, we get a high pick in a deep draft..if we succeed, Benning and company look like geniuses.