It looks like the Canucks will be rolling back to the 1A and 1B goaltending system for the next two seasons. Already speculated over the past few days, Pierre LeBrun confirmed that the organization has signed former Buffalo Sabres goaltender Anders Nilsson to a two-year contract worth $5 million. He will carry an average annual value worth $2.5 million.
Anders Nilsson with Canucks, two years, $2.5 M aav
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 1, 2017
Two years seems most appropriate given the Canucks’ situation. By the time Nilsson’s contract is over, the hope is Thatcher Demko will be ready for the NHL. With Richard Bachman’s contract over at the end of this season, Demko is expected to take on a larger role with the Utica Comets in the coming years.
$2.5 million per season is a good deal, especially given the fact that he and Jacob Markstrom will likely be splitting 82 games fairly evenly. The Canucks will have $6.1 million locked up in the net, significantly less than it’s been in previous years.
Despite playing on a weak Sabres team, Nilsson sported the seventh-best save percentage (0.923%) among goaltenders to start at least 20 games. He should make a solid duo with Markstrom – not only due to their stability but also because of their relationship. Both goaltenders were a part of the Swedish national team at the 2010 World Junior Championships, where they captured the bronze medal. Further, the Canucks could very well possess the tallest goaltending combo with both Nilsson and Markstrom standing at 6’6″.
In case you missed it, here’s InGoal Magazine’s Greg Balloch on Nilsson’s game:
“Anders Nilsson has always been a goaltender with limitless potential. He put up some excellent numbers in Sweden and hoped to carry that over to North America early in his career. Things didn’t pan out with the New York Islanders, so he signed in the KHL on 2014-15. That offseason, he completely retooled his game and shifted his focus to puck-tracking. He had a lot of the same issues that Jacob Markstrom currently does.
Huge frame, but poor reads and poorly tracked pucks led to him opening up – frequently allowing goals through the five-hole and underneath the armpits. Being able to track the puck more efficiently, not just on shots but on passes as well, has turned him into a very different goaltender. As the results have shown in recent years, his new mindset has him stopping pucks at a rate higher than ever before in his NHL career. At 27, he has some prime years left, which could make this a very smart signing by the Canucks.”
Unlike the Roberto Luongo-Cory Schneider saga, this goaltending situation will be a true 1A-1B. Nilsson and Markstrom are relatively similar goaltenders with somewhat similar expectations. Management has stressed the need to be competitive every night, and this duo may certainly provide that opportunity. The Canucks need not worry about back-to-back nights as consistent, even-levelled goaltending may be achieved on a night-to-night basis. Neither goaltender has ever held a true starting goaltender job, but they might now. The 1A-1B system will certainly provide for a battle in the net.
This is a good move for the Canucks – not only for their current situation, but also for the development of Thatcher Demko. There’s no sense in rushing him with two starting goaltenders locked up for two years, which gives him plenty of time to refine his game in Utica. Nilsson and Markstrom won’t be the best one-two punch in the NHL, but it’s definitely solid for a team buying time for its young players.