How Vancouver’s Goalie Depth Could Disappear

In the upcoming offseason, the Canucks have to address a number of future roster issues.  One of those is that the current Canucks goaltending depth, much like water in California, is going to dry up.  It should be expected that a number of goaltenders are not going to be re-signed, are going to walk away to Europe, or are not likely consideration for future NHL jobs.

What’s the current status of the goalies in Vancouver’s system?  Let’s take a look.

Canucks Current Depth

The two goaltenders most likely to remain in the system are Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack.  As the current starters for the Canucks, it would be a surprise to see either of them leave the system.  With Ryan Miller’s age and contract size, I can’t see him being moved.  While Eddie Lack trade rumours were around at the beginning of the year, we have not heard any recently with his excellent play down the stretch.  Given he is a fan favourite, considered young, and posting reasonably good numbers for a starter, Lack is most likely to return next year.

Jacob Markstrom

Jacob Markstrom is a goalie I’ve written about a few times this year and as a prospect I am still keen on him.  I think he can be at least an average NHL goaltender but given the short leash goalies are on he has yet to be able to establish himself.  Markstrom has only faced 40% of the shots required before we start to have a sample size large enough to properly judge his talent.  The Contrarian Goaltender has an interesting piece on Jacob Markstrom.

It is clear the Canucks do not trust Markstrom, having done their best to not play him.  Instead, they had Eddie Lack play 19 of 20 games during Miller’s injury.  It seems unlikely the Canucks want to sign him for NHL duty, and most likely will move him for little (if he even has any trade market value at this point) or let him walk for free.  If the Canucks do not get something of value for Shawn Matthias, all they will have left in return from the Roberto Luongo trade is cap space.

Even if the Canucks do wish to re-sign Markstrom, his qualifying offer is going to cost over $1,000,000.  That’s a lot of money to invest in your third string goaltender, and an amount that you cannot bury in the minors.  Re-signing him, even if you wish, is not an efficient use of your cap space, especially for a team we predict will have cap space issues this summer.

Joacim Eriksson

Joacim Eriksson was an excellent zero-risk pick up for the Canucks, but after spending two years in Utica he has yet to prove himself to be even better than AHL average.  This season, Eriksson posted a .908 save percentage, while in his inaugural season he posted a .911.  Both of these fall short of the .913 average mark for the American Hockey League.

It’s quite possible that he has not yet performed at his true talent level as he has only faced 2,300 shots (just over 75% of the minimum required to be confident in a goalies talent level), but at 25 years old time is running out quickly for him.

Eriksson is an RFA this summer and needs to be re-signed if the Canucks want to keep him in the system.  From the Canucks perspective, he is a good option to re-sign to keep in Utica but so far he has yet to establish himself as worthy of an extended NHL opportunity.  The issue is that the rumours surrounding Eriksson suggest he will return to Sweden this summer, where he can make more money, and not have to toil away in the minor leagues.

Joe Cannata

Joe Cannata needs to be re-signed as well this upcoming off season.  The big issue with him is that he is going to be entering his 26 year old season and has yet to even be able to establish himself as a regular in the AHL. 

He had an excellent season this year, having earned accolades early in the season for being a top ECHL goaltender while his AHL numbers rival those of Jacob Markstrom.  The issue is that those performances come from very small samples and are likely not reflective of his talent level. 

The Canucks may re-sign him, but it is not for him to compete for an NHL job but rather to keep some depth within their goaltending. Still, it seems like it could be a waste of a valuable contract space to sign a goalie just to play on the fringes of the AHL.

Thatcher Demko

Thatcher Demko continues to succeed in the NCAA and is held highly by both the statistical and traditional scouting point of views.  Demko posted a 0.925 save percentage this season with Boston College as one of the youngest players in all of NCAA hockey, which was a top-20 number in the USA. He has finished his second year of University and will return to Boston College for a third year.

I would expect Demko to be signed by the Canucks next summer to prevent him from being able to walk away as a UFA.  Once signed, he will still likely need another two years of development in the American Hockey League before he is ready to compete in the NHL. 

Demko’s time with the team will come, but for now he is still a few years away from being ready and should not be counted on to fill any professional depth role next season.

Going Forward

From reviewing the current goaltenders within the Vancouver Canucks system, we can predict that they could lose a number of players for next season. Jacob Markstrom may be too expensive and demand a legitimate NHL shot, and Joacim Eriksson has the option of returning to Sweden. Joe Cannata may also be on his way out, and Demko does not look to be ready to step into a professional role in the next season or two. 

How can the Canucks address losing a number of goalies in such a short time?  Stay tuned, as we will look into the options Jim Benning will have in addressing this issue in the follow-up to this piece.

    • wojohowitz

      And then do what? Bring back basket case Luongo?

      I don’t think you want Lacky between the pipes in any big games. This is the Troy Gamble era all over again.

  • wojohowitz

    Oh, oh, I have an idea; how about the Canucks just stop spending 6,000,000 dollars on a guy who is average, at best, at this point in his NHL career?

    I’m not sure it’s the best use of cap space to make him the 3rd highest paid player on the team. I’m not sure he contributes enough to warrant that insane contract either.

    It’s ok, because Jim knows best. Never question his commitment to nepotism or brawn over skill and speed.

  • wojohowitz

    I expect Eriksson to return home to Sweden and Markstrom to be traded at the draft. That leaves Cannata as the number one in Utica and a couple of openings which should be not hard to fill.

    • mgg

      I can’t see Cannata as the #1 in Utica. His stats are fairly mediocre and not consistent with the “winning environment” mantra. I see Cannata as an AHL back-up at best.

  • wojohowitz

    In a perfect world, we would move Miller, keep a Lack/Markstrom combo (Markstrom has to be able to at least pull a backup position) this will invite healthy competition for getting games, never a bad thing. Let Eriksson go, as well as Cannata. Try and snipe O’Connar to fill Cannata’s spot.
    In perhaps three or four years Demko, should be close.
    We are in somewhat of a rebuild, so why not let our tenders grow with our team, instead of overpaying for a veteran tender. I DO know why we picked him up, but feel we would be better off spending that cash on scoring and/or Physicality (Kassian).

    If we shop Lack or Markstrom, we better get some goods in return.

    I think the weakest Tender coming up is Cannata, and don’t feel he is good enough for the No1 in Utica.

  • Vanoxy

    I think they should either trade Lack or Miller (if possible) and go with Markstrom as a backup.

    It’s ridiculous that they refuse to play Markstrom, even in relatively meaningless games down the stretch. Sure, he may let in a softie or two and lose the game, but you get to rest Lack for the playoffs. He had one (really) bad game this year, and one good one. Give the guy a chance.

    My number one gripe with this team right now is that they won’t take any risks. By trading Miller, for example, there are potentially huge benefits (cap space) at the cost of gaining some uncertainty. We don’t know how Markstrom would do if thrown into the fire. But seriously, just take the chance. I think the lack of risk-taking in this organization is a big reason they are mediocre.

  • Vanoxy

    The Miller deal is really starting to be exposed as a terrible signing.

    It was not only an unneccesary move for a team in re-tool mode, but the term and ntc mean he is here to stay, at the expense of younger, cheaper tenders with way higher future potential.

    Markstrom will likely be playing elsewhere next year and by 2017 he will be posting much better stats than Miller, at half the price. And if Lack ends up leaving town while Miller remains here the backlash from the fanbase will be unreal.

  • mgg

    Re qualifying offer for Markstrom. A qualifying offer can be a two way contract (1M at the NHL level and significantly less at the AHL level) – see Joni Ortio for the Flames who had a two-way this year (it switches to a one-way this upcoming year).

    And even if he did get a 1M one-way, it would only leave a residual cap hit of 0.075M (only the excess portion over 0.925M stays as cap hit if the player is sent down to the AHL).

    The problem with Markstrom is whether he can he go down without getting picked up – he did last year but has something changed? He is still unproven at the NHL level. And another question obviously is whether he is willing to continue playing in Utica or not.

  • mgg

    Hello i just wanted to express how happy we all are that our friends down south kicked your sorry butts out of the playoffs. How is that in the last 10 yrs you have become the most hated team in Canada? Oh is it because of players (mostly cheap shot artists). The fans( officially more annoying then leaf fans….if thats even possible). Or is it the fact that when you had the whole country cheering for you in the Stanley cup finals you S#$@ the bed and then decided it would be cool to destroy your own city….lmao! Where did this arrogance come from? Are they putting something in the heroin now? Mcdavid says “Vancouver is a nice place….a nice place to take a dump!!” Cheers from alberta…The new “centre of the universe”