The Canucks announced today that they had extended depth goaltender Richard Bachman for another season. Bachman was already signed for the 2016-17 campaign, so this extension doesn’t kick in until the 2017-18 season. As of July 1st, teams are allowed to extend pending unrestricted free agents, which Bachman is, but extending contracts this far ahead of their expiration is usually reserved for star players, which Bachman is not.
So are the Canucks losing their marbles? Actually, extending Bachman at this point is a perfectly reasonable move, because it solves a problem that the Canucks would have run into with the expansion draft next June.
Forward Mike Zalewski & goaltender Richard Bachman sign contract extensions.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) July 13, 2016
When the league finally made the expansion to Las Vegas official in the week leading up to the draft, and subsequently released the official expansion draft rules, I combed through them to see how they might affect the Canucks. While the Canucks roster composition doesn’t make for many difficult decisions, aside from which depth forward to protect with the final spot, there was one interesting rule that could have caused them some trouble.
Player Exposure Requirements
* All Clubs must meet the following minimum requirements regarding players exposed for selection in the Expansion Draft:
iii) One goaltender who is under contract in 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his current contract immediately prior to 2017-18. If the club elects to make a restricted free agent goaltender available in order to meet this requirement, that goaltender must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the club’s protected list.
At the time, the Canucks had no non-exempt goaltenders under contract for the 2017-18 season, although Jacob Markstrom would have been an RFA. He’s since signed a three year extension, but either way, he is eligible for exposure.
Meanwhile, Ryan Miller and Richard Bachman’s contracts were set to end after the 2016-17 season, while Thatcher Demko and Michael Garteig were both exempt from exposure, with both having yet to play a professional season.
Given that a team is required to expose a goaltender, while protecting a goaltending is only an option, if the Canucks did not have another goaltender to expose by June 17th of next year, they would have no choice but to expose Jacob Markstrom. With that being the landscape, I suggested these possibilities:
With no other goalies under contract for the 2017-18 season, the Canucks will have to find a goalie to expose in the expansion draft. This could be via trade (a la the John Vanbiesbrouck acquisition back in 1993 to protect Kay Whitmore) or some free agency signing of a non-exempt goaltender. Another option, which might be the simplest, is extending the contract of Richard Bachman into the 2017-18 season. Since there are no games played requirements for goaltenders, this would appear to be sufficient.
With the extension of Bachman, the Canucks appear to have done exactly that. Given how far out we are from the 2017-18 season, it’s hard not to assume that this was the major motivation of the extension. Hopefully Bachman doesn’t mind being an expansion draft decoy – any way it shakes out, he’ll be getting paid for at least two more seasons. (Although the article does mention that his extension is of the two-way variety, while his current deal is one-way, meaning that he was paid 575,000 to play in the AHL this year and would be in line for a substantial pay cut in 2017-18).
Bachman played in one game last year for the Canucks, a 4-3 win in Arizona in which he stopped 28 of 31 shots (.903 save percentage). He mostly sat on the bench as the team rode Ryan Miller into the ground while Jacob Markstrom recovered from a pre-season injury.
In the American League, Bachman posted a 17-12-5 record with the Comets, with a 2.75 goals against average and a .900 save percentage. His numbers were worse than fellow Utica goaltender Joe Cannata’s in all areas (2.52 goals against average, .909 save percentage), and he had a penchant for giving up flimsy goals, especially in the middle third of the season. But Bachman had an advantage: with Thatcher Demko coming, the Canucks were only going to keep one of their 2015-16 tandem for the following season, and Bachman was already under contract. Thus, it’s no surprise that Joe Cannata, the younger and slightly better of the two (though still roughly replacement level in the AHL) signed with Washington during the first week of free agency.
It’s now going to be Bachman’s job to work with Demko for the next couple of years (similar to the mentor-apprentice relationship that Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom have had) as the college standout adjusts to the pro game.