Per the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning is trying to trade Eddie Lack and is seeking a second round pick in return for the burgeoning goalie.
Garrioch didn’t have much to say, but this line from his Ottawa Sun column yesterday caught the eye of Canucks fans this morning:
The Canucks are trying to make room for Jacob Markstrom and GM Jim Benning is seeking a second-round pick in return.
First and foremost, before we even begin to analyze this, we have to consider who this report is coming from. While a legitimate MSM guy with (presumably) legitimate industry sources, Garrioch isn’t exactly Bob McKenzie, and he’s been known to pen rumour columns in the past that are little more than industry speculation. It’s impossible to say that he’s making stuff up, and I doubt he is, but who knows if this is wild speculation on behalf of a source or an actual account of Jim Benning picking up the phone and calling other GMs offering Lack for a second round pick.
If I were a betting man, even though we know that Lack is on the table in a possible goalie trade, I would guess that Benning isn’t actively shopping Eddie Lack right now. Although they seem to much prefer Ryan Miller and are high on Jacob Markstrom, Lack was easily their best goaltender last season and represents Vancouver’s best chance at having league average goaltending next season. It just doesn’t make sense to be actively shopping their best goalie in late-May.
In terms of just stopping the puck, Ryan Miller’s 2014-15 year was below NHL average for just the second time in his NHL career as he struggled tremendously to keep pucks out of Vancouver’s net at 5-on-5. This wasn’t completely unexpected however, as we predicted Miller would be a below average goalie in his first season with Vancouver thanks primarily to age-related decline. Aging another year, we expect him to start trending closer to “should be a backup” territory in the near future, and after suffering a fairly major knee in 2015, who knows how he’ll physically be able to respond.
Jacob Markstrom on the other hand will simply cost too much to play another year in the AHL, especially for a cap-strapped team like the Canucks. While he’s been dynamite in the minor leagues, he’s been catastrophically awful as an NHLer, rocking a career 0.896 save percentage so far. It’s completely possible he turns it around, but talking to guys like Greg Balloch of InGoal Magazine, I get the sense that Markstrom still has fairly severe holes in his game that are a major hindrance to having NHL success. Specifically, he has to get much faster and read the play better to avoid chasing the puck and opening up holes NHL shooters can exploit.
The Canucks like Markstrom, but he’s not exactly young anymore and his contract situation will basically necessitate a goalie moving on this offseason, so you can see why Canucks fans are pensive about Eddie Lack. He’s good, he’s not in decline, and he’s a fan favourite. I can’t speak for the whole fanbase, but I get the sense that trading Eddie Lack would go over like a lead balloon in Vancouver given how fans have grown attached to the goofy Swede, especially if the return is little more than magic beans.
That being said, there is a situation where is makes sense to move Lack for future assets, and that’s if the Canucks are going for a full-on rebuild. It’s going to be extremely tough to compete in the short-term with a Miller-Markstrom tandem unless Markstrom gets a hell of a lot quicker, and Eddie Lack represents their best chance at rebuilding on the fly. Lack is 27 though, so he’s not a long-term solution in Vancouver’s crease. Conservatively, you’re looking at 4-5 more good years of Lack before you need to have a guy 100% ready and waiting to take the reins. Could Lack be good for longer than that? Absolutely, but it would be foolish to bet your future on a guy who will be at an age where goalies usually decline when you should be ready to compete.
If you’re going to tear the whole thing down and try and get an Auston Matthews or a Jakob Chychrun or a Jesse Puljujarvi, then having a strong goalie like Eddie Lack is probably counter-productive. If getting a lottery pick or two to solidify the future cornerstone pieces of this franchise is the plan, then by all means trade Eddie Lack for assets that will be stepping into their prime when your next core is.
All in all, while we know that Lack is in play especially since he’s not locked down to a long-term contract and Vancouver has to make a move with one of their goalies, Garrioch’s report seems more like throwing stuff at the wall rather than an actual nugget of industry information. At least, that’s what I hope it is.