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 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 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 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 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.
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.