As the season slowly comes to its end, it’s time to start looking ahead to figure out what the off-season will look like for the Canucks.
With that in mind, we’ll start by looking at the goaltending position and how all the pieces will align in the organization. It’s the one position within the organization that seems to have the clearest path for the upcoming year.
However, as we saw this season, the best-laid plans don’t always work out and sometimes you have to scramble. Needless to say, things can change between now and the start of the season but at the very least we can map it out.
Jacob Markstrom has been a bright light for the Canucks this season.
He’s kept them in games that they likely shouldn’t have been in and made the bad losses appear better than they actually were. Which is what a good goalie should do for their team.
However, he is 29 years old and isn’t exactly busting the doors down in terms of numbers. Although scoring is up this season compared to year’s past, he is tied for 23rd in save percentage and 24th in goals-against average, which isn’t great.
A large part of that is how poorly the Canucks defence has played in front of him.
Markstrom will almost certainly be the #1 goalie for the Canucks again next season but the talk of extending him now seems a bit premature. If you were to sign him, the contract would start at 30 years old and generally, goalies aren’t going to trend upwards from there.
Let him handle the workload next season and if (the big if) management can improve the team in front of him, then doing a 2 or 3-year deal after that could be digestible. But the market may dictate that term length and then the Canucks will have to tread carefully.
The backup position is also set with Thatcher Demko holding down that spot. Demko will be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of this season, so I would expect the organization to sign him to a two-year deal at a reasonable cap hit with Demko’s camp looking to secure a one-way deal.
Interestingly though, Demko will be waiver exempt for the start of next season (has 53 games of exemption left), so there is some flexibility in that sense but it’s unlikely we see a tandem other than Markstrom and Demko to start the season. However, if Demko continues to struggle at the NHL level, it is a lever that the organization may pull.
It’s been a mess for goaltending in Utica this season with the various injuries and recalls throughout the organization.
That makes everyone a little apprehensive about what will happen down there next season. The Canucks have two goalies signed for there but given this season, do they take the appropriate steps to insulate themselves further?
Richard Bachman has one year remaining on his deal and should be recovered from his injury that limited him to 10 appearances this season. He provides a veteran presence for the farm team down there but has slowly been trending downwards and this should be the last year that he is within the organization.
His veteran presence should help Michael DiPietro make the leap to professional hockey, which is what he will do next year. There is always a learning curve for junior goalies taking that next step and having a goaltender like Bachman helps ease the burden.
It will be interesting to see how the workload is spread out between the two goalies and how quickly DiPietro can get up to speed. The AHL schedule does force teams to rely on both goalies, due to regular back-to-back situations, but the coaching staff will still usually lean on one guy more than the other.
Matthew Thiessen will make the jump to the NCAA after playing in the USHL this past season.
He has appeared in 42 games for Dubuque and has posted a 2.99 GAA and 0.888 SV% thus far. At this moment, Thiessen and Benjamin Beck are the only the goaltenders joining the University of Maine for next season and I would give the edge to Thiessen at this point for the backup role behind Jeremy Swayman.
It’s a pretty clear breakdown on how the organization will lineup in net next season:
There could be some changes made over the summer but I wouldn’t hold my breath. They, however, should sign another goalie to an NHL deal and then figure out the AHL situation from there. Injuries happen every year and it’s better to have a player in the mix rather than trying to chase to fix their issues like they had to do this season.