LeBrun: Canucks would prefer to keep Markstrom over Lack, interested in bringing back Santorelli

There’s a lot of trade chatter surrounding the Vancouver Canucks these days, and why not. We’ve seen general manager Jim Benning operate, and we know he’s a man of action.

Whether or not that action improves the team or not, well that’s still up for debate. The days of stay still Gill are gone though, and you can expect the Canucks to be active in the weeks leading up to the March 2 NHL trade deadline.

Two things in particular seem likely to be addressed, including the trade of a depth goaltender, and the acquisition of reinforcements up front. On Tuesday, ESPN and TSN’s Pierre LeBrun addressed both issues, and we’ll get into it on the other side of the jump.

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Let’s start with the forward issue, because it’s significantly less complicated. The Canucks need more scoring and ideally more centre depth, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have a versatile forward on an affordable expiring deal. He’s a guy you might be familiar with. Certainly the organization is.

“I’m told the Vancouver Canucks where he played last year have reached out to the Leafs and have interest in Mike Santorelli,” LeBrun said on Tuesday, during an Insider Trading segment on TSN.

It would be a bit of an odd look for the Canucks, who could’ve easily re-signed Santorelli – a local kid who played well in his one year with the team – this summer, but opted not to. 

Santorelli is a really good puck possession player, who is particularly adept at protecting the puck in the cycle game. He can generate offense, play any forward position, and he had excellent chemistry in the very recent past on a workmanlike second forward line with Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows, in particular. 

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The Canucks can fit Santorelli’s salary under the upper limit of the cap by simply demoting a player, so this deal could be an easy one to make. It’s a tougher one to swallow from an asset management perspective though, particularly considering that the Canucks could’ve had Santorelli for money and a contract slot in the summer and instead would have to give up a pick (maybe more) this month.

Moving onto the goaltenders, LeBrun appeared on TSN 1040’s mid-day show on Tuesday and suggested that the Canucks would prefer to keep budding American Hockey League star Jacob Markstrom, rather than current, rarely used backup Eddie Lack.

Here are LeBrun’s quotes in full (transcription my own, though I found the podcast link and was alerted to its contents by the second hardest working man in hockey – behind only LeBrun himself, and maybe Jonathan Willis – Chris Nichols of NicholsonHockey.com.)

I can tell you, I know of a couple teams that are kicking themselves that they didn’t take Jacob Markstrom off waivers in September… that’s the one that’s biting everyone now when you look at the year that he’s had.

The sense I get, from what I understand, I think the Canucks want to keep Markstrom now. Internally they view him as this late bloomer, almost Ben Bishop-potential type guy. So I’m not sure you’re going to see him move.

*Matt Sekeres asks Lebrun if the Canucks would prefer to deal Lack*

I think so, that’s my sense. Now it depends because of course Markstrom might get you the type of offer that might supersede anything you’ll get offered on Lack because of Markstrom’s age, his size. He’s starting to show in the AHL that maybe that’s why Florida took him in the first round. Its just taken a while. He’s an intriguing guy.

It’s the sense I got when writing up a Benning interview a few weeks ago too. From a piece I wrote at the time for theScore:

“Eddie’s been real good for us too, so I don’t want to put that out there,” Benning responded when asked directly about a prospective Lack trade.

“Eddie’s played – the games he’s got in – he’s been excellent for us. Having said that if a team comes along and we can make our team better, we’ll definitely look at something,” Benning continued.

“I don’t know which guy it is yet,” referring to whether or not he’d look to move Markstrom or Lack, “but if we can add a really good young prospect or something – we’ll look at it.”

Markstrom has been phenomenal for the Utica Comets this season, but he’s often performed very well at the AHL level. Maybe hasn’t been quite as unbeatable as he’s been this season, but he’s been consistently above average in the AHL and he’s playing behind a pretty great possession side in Utica.

Lack’s AHL performance, at a similar age, was also sparkling. He’s been roughly average this season in a classic backup role behind Ryan Miller, but I personally rate him as a decent bet to provide average or better goaltending in as much as a platoon role over the next few years. 

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Where this gets a bit complicated is when you consider the trade market for goalies (always very tricky), and the peculiar business-side mechanics of Vancouver’s goaltending situation. 

Miller, as we know, is signed for two more seasons after this one to a contract with a big $6 million annual average value. Lack has one season remaining after this year at a reasonable clip. Markstrom’s contract expires after this year, and he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer – but a restricted free agent who will be prohibitively expensive to qualify ($1.4 million). 

Vancouver is already dealing with $800,000 in dead cap-space in net as a result of Roberto Luongo’s retained salary, so bringing Lack and Markstrom to camp next fall would be an extremely inefficient allocation of resources. 

Looking at it structurally, it’s clear that something has got to give here. It’s a situation that feels oddly familiar actually: Vancouver hanging on to a couple of goalies even as it makes no sense to employ them both much further, trying to trade one of them for value as their leverage on the trade market steadily erodes. 

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The more things change…

  • If Miller keeps his excellent play up for a while longer, what are the odds the Canucks can find a taker for his $6 million contract? Edmonton’s desperate for some stability in net…

    • Miller to Edmonton sounds pretty tasty. I don’t even care if we get a high pick back if we get, say… Yakupov? Decent 2nd liner, could turn 1st once Vrbata leaves/retires/production dies down

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    “Lack’s AHL performance, at a similar age (to Markstrom), was also sparkling.”

    It should be noted that Lack was an overager when he put up those good AHL numbers whereas Markstrom put up good numbers at a younger age.

    It should also be noted that Lack didn’t become an average NHL backup until he was older than the last time Markstrom sucked in the NHL…

  • pheenster

    Sounds to me like someone is feeding LeBrun a line in order to pump Markstrom’s trade value. I have lots of time for LeBrun but this must have Benning rubbing his hands.

  • pheenster

    Miller to Edmonton (or Philly or anywhere) for a 5th round pick sounds great to me. Then play the Swedes next year, if one proves to be better trade the other.

  • pheenster

    I think the Canucks should seriously consider trading Miller, at this point, he’s obviously very streaky, he’s also already pretty old so he’s only gonna get worse the longer he’s here (in other words, the hot streaks won’t look so hot), and his play noticeably deteriorates when he’s tired. I believe Miller has a limited no trade clause so Edmonton is off the table… I wonder about Philly though, they’d prob be decent with Miller in net… but they’d still need a better defense so probably not their either. Honestly, it would be playoff suicide but Miller to Minnie might work if we got a good prospect or well, anything. Miller and Kass for Nino would be fine with me 🙂

  • pheenster

    All you guys talking about trading Miller need to put down the pipe. He’s Benning’s guy, Benning brought him here and he’s not going anywhere, not this season and probably not next either. Let’s move on.

  • Mantastic

    Maybe I’m misinformed but wouldn’t Markstrom have to clear waivers to come back to the NHL before the end of the season?

    If so, the Canucks would have to get a goaltender back in a trade for Lack and basically ride Ryan Miller through the last 30 games of the season and into (hopefully) the playoffs.

    Being handcuffed in having to take a goaltender back in a trade diminishes the ability to pick up any real forward assets unless Benning is willing to give up picks/prospects as well.

    If Markstrom has to clear waivers to come up, it doesn’t make sense to trade Lack until the draft.

    • Mantastic

      there are no re-entry waivers needed in this current CBA for 2 years now… when was the last time you saw a player needing to clear waivers to be called up?

    • Mantastic

      Re-entry waivers don’t exist any more, since the most recent collective bargaining agreement. Markstrom doesn’t need to be waived unless he is recalled to the NHL for at least 30 days, or 10 days, whichever comes first, and is then to be sent down again, or until next fall if the Canucks re-sign him and want to send him to the AHL.

  • Fred-65

    Trade Miller, Lack or Markstrom is all about is the team in a rebuild or not. Benning/Linden have had a full season to determine what they have and now it’s the moment of truth highlighted by the goaltending puzzle. It’s also about a number of other players and they’ve surely seen enough of the prospects to make a decent assesment.

    Interesting summer coming up

  • Fred-65

    easy on the chronic fellas.

    as noted above, miller is one of bennings guys. the leadership philosophy is to have a bonafide #1, and that is what they have. objective here is to eliminate the drama/media circus and give fragile egos a boost with the occasional bail-out on the backend.

    making a safe place to nurture talent… and note that every public sentence from team16 is heavy on this messaging, “develop talent internally.”

    miller is here to stay. period.

    lack is a crowd pleaser and doesnt rock the boat… so i think you see him sold on the idea of riding pine for two/three years… then maybe getting a shot at being the hot hand for a playoff run. behind a vastly improved group and culture

  • Fred-65

    If Markstrom had to clear waivers on the way down, if we trade Lack then call up Markstrom, would he again have to be exposed on waivers? If that’s the case, trading Markstrom would make more sense if there is a possibility we could lose him on waivers.