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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports

Predicting Jacob Markstrom’s Next Contract

In terms of contract negotiations, much of the attention surrounding the Vancouver Canucks this offseason will be paid to Brock Boeser and Alex Edler. The team’s likely MVP for the 2018/19 season also becomes eligible for a new contract when Free Agent Frenzy 2019 hits—and it’s probably time to start talking about it.

Jacob Markstrom’s contract doesn’t expire until 2020, but July 1 of this year marks the point at which he can begin discussing an extension with the Canucks. Coming off what could be a career-defining season, Markstrom’s camp is no doubt eager to begin negotiations as soon as possible—but GM Jim Benning has a number of things to consider before offering Markstrom a new contract.

Three Key Questions The Canucks Must Answer Before They Re-Sign Jacob Markstrom

Is He A Bona Fide Starting Goaltender?

Markstrom has been the Canucks’ most valuable player in 2018/19, and most would attest that he’s finally proven himself as a bona fide starting goaltender in the NHL. While the 29-year-old also served as the team’s starter last year, it’s fair to say that this is the first time in his career he’s been seen as a true number one netminder.

That being said, goalies are fickle beasts—and there’s a long list of supposed NHL starters whose careers have fizzled with little warning or explanation. The Canucks need to be damn sure that Markstrom is going to maintain his current level of play moving forward if they’re going to pay him like a starting goaltender.

Could Markstrom Still Be Starter When The Team Is Contending?

As it stands now, even the most optimistic of Canuck fans don’t anticipate truly contending for the Stanley Cup again until 2020/21 at the earliest. Markstrom will be 30 when that season begins. There are plenty of top-level goaltenders of that age—and older—around the league, but the trend is definitely skewing toward younger starters.

Of the top ten teams in the standings right now, only the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators have a starting goaltender over the age of 30. If anything, it qualifies as food for thought before the Canucks commit to Markstrom for another three seasons or more.

Is Demko Still The Heir Apparent?

Of course, there’s also the question of Thatcher Demko. The 23-year-old remains one of the top goaltending prospects in the world—and although his 2018/19 numbers at the NHL level aren’t exceptional, there’s plenty of reason to believe they’ll improve.

If the Canucks brass still has faith in Demko to take over the starting role, there has to be a transition plan in place—and that has to be factored in before Markstrom is signed to a new contract. Anything longer than three years would seriously complicate the Demko situation.

What The Canucks Want

The Canucks would love to sign Jacob Markstrom to a two-year extension—though they’d probably settle for three—with a slight salary raise to something with a $4 in front of it. That would mean paying Markstrom like an average—but not elite—starting goaltender.

What Markstrom Wants

Markstrom and his agent will no doubt want him to be paid like the top-flight starting goaltender he’s been in 2018/19—especially if negotiations drag on into next season and he replicates this performance. They’ll be looking for a commitment of more than three years and a salary above $5 million—both of which would be a recognition of the Canucks belief in Markstrom as their starter moving forward.

What The Comparables Say

Looking for contract comparables is always easier when one is dealing with goaltenders—there’s simply a lot less of them to sort through. In order to narrow the field further, we’ll be looking specifically at starting or pseudo-starting goalies that have signed or re-signed NHL deals over the last three seasons.

We’ll be looking at those goaltenders’ stat lines for their most recent complete season at the time of their signing, as well as their overall career numbers. In addition to the usual suspects, take note of the Point Share column—which attempts to estimate how many of a team’s total points a goalie directly contributed with their play, as compiled by Hockey-Reference.com. To add context to these statshots, we’ll start with Jacob Markstrom’s own profile below.

All stats were current as of 4:00PM PST on April 2, 2019.

Jacob Markstrom

UFA in 2020

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2018/19 29 28-22-9 .913 2.76 11.0
Career ————- 87-101-28 .909 2.81 35.6

Markstrom’s statline might not look all that impressive in a vacuum, but one also has to consider the defence that has been in front of him for the bulk of the season. Anyone who has watched Vancouver play this year can attest to his importance to the team—as evidenced by his impressive point share, ranked seventh in the league.

 

Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings

Re-signed in 2019 for One Year @ $4 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2018/19 34 22-20-5 .909 3.02 8.7
Career ————- 243-171-68 .914 2.54 87.6

The 34-year-old Howard signed a team-friendly extension with Detroit so he can continue his career one year at a time—and he can quickly be discarded as a comparable for Markstrom.

 

Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers

Re-signed in 2019 for Three Years @ $4.5 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2018/19 30 24-20-6 .907 2.90 7.9
Career ————- 26-21-6 .904 3.00 8.0

One would have to think that Koskinen’s contract—as much as it was and still is belittled leaguewide—sets the bare minimum when it comes to Markstrom’s upcoming deal. Markstrom has outperformed Koskinen across every metric, and so the Canucks will have a tough time getting him to sign for any cheaper than this—though concessions have to be made for the “Chiarelli Factor.”

 

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Re-signed in 2018 for Two Years @ $5 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2017/18 36 42-13-4 .927 2.31 13.2
Career ————- 338-187-70 .918 2.38 115.1

Rinne’s latest deal with Nashville is so team-friendly that it doesn’t deserve much discussion here. He’s also seven years older than Markstrom, so Rinne isn’t much of a comparable at all.

 

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Re-signed in 2018 for Eight Years @ $6.4 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2017/18 25 31-18-7 .926 2.43 13.2
Career ————- 118-77-28 .921 2.42 46.1

Despite the fact that Gibson is three years younger than Markstrom, his career accomplishments already dwarf the Canuck netminders. The term Gibson received is definitely a reflection of the age at which he signed his deal—it will carry him through the entirety of his prime—and so the Canucks probably don’t have to worry about Markstrom demanding an eight-year deal of his own.

 

Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Re-signed in 2018 for Three Years @ $7 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2017/18 33 29-13-4 .927 2.24 9.9
Career ————- 439-248-77 .913 2.55 140.3

Fleury’s contract is rich—especially when his age is considered—but he’s the face of the Vegas franchise and signed the deal after leading them to the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals. As it was with Rinne, Fleury is an older goaltender than Markstrom and a better one—so he doesn’t make for much of a comparable.

 

Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

Re-signed in 2018 for Six Years @ $6.17 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2017/18 25 44-11-9 .924 2.36 14.0
Career ————- 116-64-16 .915 2.66 38.2

Throw Hellebuyck into the John Gibson camp of goaltenders who were signed through their entire primes, and were compensated for it with term and salary. Hellebuyck’s numbers with the Jets speak for themselves—and he’s allowed them to become a true Stanley Cup contender. Markstrom will have to accept fewer dollars and years in his own contract.

 

Carter Hutton, Buffalo Sabres

Signed in 2018 for Three Years @ $2.75 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2017/18 32 17-7-3 .931 2.09 6.2
Career ————- 80-63-22 .913 2.58 28.6

Hutton makes for an interesting comparable when it comes to Markstrom’s next contract. Like Markstrom, Hutton proved himself as a starting goaltender at a fairly late age—and he wasn’t able to get a team to fully commit to him even on the open market. Unlike Markstrom, however, Hutton only had a half-season as a starter behind him when he signed—which means that Markstrom should be in line for a much higher salary, and perhaps a longer term.

 

Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes

Re-signed in 2018 for Three Years @ $4.25 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2017/18 28 21-17-6 .930 2.24 10.4
Career ————- 73-46-15 .920 2.34 26.8

Raanta makes for an excellent comparable to Markstrom. Raanta’s current injury troubles aside, he had one season as a starter and two as a top-flight backup when he signed his contract—less experience than Markstrom, but within the same ballpark. Their similar bodies of work might suggest similar contracts—but it would also be understandable if Markstrom felt he deserved slightly more than Raanta.

 

Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

Re-signed in 2017 for Two Years @ $4.75 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2016/17 36 25-11-4 .926 2.28 9.2
Career ————- 278-233-67 .914 2.81 116.2

The less said about the happenings within the Ottawa organization the better. Anderson is too old to be a comparable for Markstrom anyway.

 

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Re-signed in 2017 for Eight Years @ $10.5 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2016/17 29 37-20-5 .923 2.23 12.6
Career ————- 320-224-68 .918 2.47 122.9

Price’s contract is truly in a world of its own. There really isn’t any a comparable deal to it elsewhere in the league.

 

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks

Re-signed in 2017 for Six Years @ $5.75 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2016/17 27 35-23-6 .912 2.40 9.9
Career ————- 153-97-23 .912 2.47 43.2

Jones is the goaltender that Markstrom’s agent should be pointing at when negotiations with the Canucks begin. Although Jones signed at a younger age than Markstrom will—and thus, Markstrom can’t expect to receive the same term—but he was also compensated with a rather generous salary. That probably had a lot to do with his playoff run in 2016, but aside from that Jones had a similar resumé to Markstrom when he signed.

 

Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars

Signed in 2017 for Six Years @ $4.92 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2016/17 30 18-15-5 .910 2.54 5.7
Career ————- 200-112-32 .920 2.31 67.4

Bishop’s deal was signed on the open market of unrestricted free agency—which is the only thing keeping it from being a favourable comparable for Markstrom’s camp. In retrospect, the Stars probably shouldn’t have committed six years to a 30-year-old goalie—and the Canucks should avoid making the same mistake.

 

Scott Darling, Carolina Hurricanes

Signed in 2017 for Four Years @ $4.15 million

  Age Record Save % GAA Point Share
2016/17 28 18-5-5 .924 2.38 6.2
Career ————- 54-42-18 .908 2.72 18.5

Darling’s deal was signed in the frenzy of unrestricted free agency—and it’s also one of the worst contracts in recent memory. Nobody should want to emulate this one.

 

Final Prediction

The Canucks are rather fortunate that the list of favourable contract comparables for Jacob Markstrom is so short. Most of the goaltenders who have signed deals of a significant term and salary in recent years have been either far younger or far better than Markstrom. The exceptions to the rule—players like Martin Jones, Ben Bishop, and Scott Darling—may serve as positive comparables, but they’re also almost universally seen as regrettable contracts.

It would seem that GM Jim Benning would be justified to offer Jacob Markstrom a contract of no longer than three years and somewhere in the range of $4-4.5 million—and feel comfortable moving Markstrom at the 2020 Trade Deadline if he ends up demanding more.

  • 3yrs and 4.5m seems about right, best case scenario it will take that long for Demko to establish himself as the bona fide starting netminder anyways.

    And if he doesn´t then we would still have Markström, it’s a good problem to have. As Benning said at the 2018 draft, you can never have enough goaltenders.

  • The expansion draft complicates everything. We are definitely losing Demko if we keep Markstrom. Demko looks ready, and is part of the EP, Bo, Brock, Hughes core. The big boy pants move is to trade Markstrom at the draft.

    • We are definitely losing Demko if we keep Markstrom.

      A few points:

      – A hockey club is perfectly capable of carrying two decent goalies at once.
      – Demko’s save percentage this year was 91.1 — a solid number for a backup goalie, but not outstanding.
      – Demko will be a restricted free agent this summer. Benning has the advantage there.

      Put it together and Demko will likely accept a fair offer. Unless he’s deluded, he knows he’s not yet a solid starting goaltender.

      • A hockey club is perfectly capable of carrying two decent goalies at once.

        Yes, except as apr points out, the expansion draft complicates everything.

        Demko will be a restricted free agent this summer. Benning has the advantage there.

        Doesn’t matter what Demko signs as an RFA because of the expansion draft. If we protect Markstrom, it is highly plausible that we lose Demko. Do you want to risk losing a blue-chip prospect that we’ve been grooming for 7 years for nothing? I don’t foresee any problems with Demko signing a 1-2 year bridge deal.

        Demko’s save percentage this year was 91.1 — a solid number for a backup goalie, but not outstanding.

        See my comment below. Demko’s stats are grossly understated due to two blowout games. Demko can/has deliver quality starts (IMHO, elite goaltending) though it’s not unreasonable to ask whether he can keep it up.

        • As it stands now, Demko would get protected from the expansion draft and Markstrom would not. That’s an easy decision. And if Markstrom gets claimed, he gets claimed. The Canucks are going to lose someone of value in 2021. The best strategy for that eventuality is to have a replacement ready (e.g., DiPietro).

          Regarding Demko’s statistics, he’s played 8 NHL games. That’s not a small sample size, it’s a tiny one. I don’t see an arbitrator being impressed by fancy statistical tap dancing trying to prove that Demko is elite.

          • I’d rather try to get an asset out of our good goaltender situation rather than risk losing one of them in the expansion draft. I think if we pare down to one goaltender before the draft, Seattle will be taking a less valuable player (i.e. a bottom-6 forward or bottom-4 defender) rather than a starting goaltender. If we pare down sooner than later, we’ll probably get more value in a trade.

            As for Demko’s stats, I wasn’t presenting them to argue for salary purposes but to highlight that we may be (are) further along in having our core piece in the goaltender position.

          • I’d rather try to get an asset out of our good goaltender situation rather than risk losing one of them in the expansion draft.

            The Canucks would be shooting themselves in the foot to protect against a problem that likely isn’t a problem. When the expansion draft comes around, Markstrom will be 31 years old and have only a year or two to go on his contract, after which he’ll be UFA. That’s not an inviting target for an expansion team.

            That’s such a thing as over thinking something. The Canucks should do what they can now to preserve their younger talent from the expansion draft. Apart from that, there’s not much they can do. They’re going to lose a decent player, and it’s going to hurt a bit.

          • Forever 1915. Seattle gets the same pick as Vegas. They get to pick a top six forward, a top four defender or a goalie. That’s why Vegas is so successful. They don’t have any bottom six forwards or bottom pairing defencemen.

    • I like the idea of trading Markstrom at the draft even more than my idea of renting him at next year’s trade deadline. Columbus, Calgary and Carolina don’t have starting goaltenders signed for next year and beyond and Benning has already done trades with those teams.

      • If the Canucks trade Markstrom now then they greatly reduce their chances of making the playoffs, and I doubt that appeals to Benning or the owners. Should Demko continue his solid play and DiPietro get called up for a long stint next year and perform well, then trading Markstrom becomes feasible.

      • I like Markstrom, and also don’t think Demko is necessarily ready for the starter’s role given his limited time and penchant for injuries. I am concerned however that we will lose wither one in the expansion draft. One way is to trade Markstrom and get a good goalie to time-share for next few seasons. My understanding is there is a goalie in Florida that the GM is trying to get rid of, and happens to be an all time Canuck. The alternative is protect Demko and sign Markstrom to a stupid 2 year – $16 mil contract to dissuade Seattle. Something creative needs to be done, and I don’t know if this management team can pull it off.

        • How about you sign Marky to a 3 year contract at say 5 million, but instead of front loading it. You back load it. 4 million cash first year, 5 million second year, 6 million the final year.

    • I didn’t want to comment too much on the Expansion Draft because there are so many unknowns. Ultimately, if it gets to that point and the team still has both goaltenders they can either give Seattle an asset to not take one or let them take one and be happy they didn’t lose anyone else.

      • The Canucks need to protect for the future and recognize they are going to lose a decent player this time around. Don’t give a pick to protect a goalie and then also lose another decent player. That’s how Vegas became so successful.

  • I think a breakdown of Demko’s games is necessary to see that he’s statistically a better goaltender. Yes, I recognize the smaller sample and I’m cherrypicking but I think in this case, there is merit to the act.

    And this isn’t a knock on Markstrom (who is near the top of the league in Quality Start %) but it is to highlight the possibility that Demko may be ready to replace Markstrom a lot sooner than people think. In my mind, if Demko continues to play as I highlight, he may be ready to replace Markstrom after next season.

    In 8 games, Demko has a SV% of 0.909, which is a hair below league average (0.910). However, if you take away two blowouts where the Canucks were outscored 10-2, Demko has been exceptional. Demko’s adjusted SV% becomes 0.933. If you look at individual SV%, they are 0.912, 0.923, 0.935, 0.941, 0.943, and 0.949. To put it in context, the league average is 0.910 and Ben Bishop leads the league with 0.933. Another way of looking at it, if we strip out the two blowouts, Demko has a delivered a quality start in EVERY GAME (QS% = 100%).

    TL;DR – On the surface, Demko’s SV% suggests that he is an average goaltender. However, when we strip away two blowouts that drag down his average, Demko has been elite in nearly every game played. If Demko and Markstrom can continue to play at their current levels, Markstrom may become a valuable rental at the trade deadline next year.

      • Keep in mind the 2 bad starts were on back to back games. Feb28th vs Arizona after a hard fought 2-1 loss to Colorado on Feb27th (a team that they were chasing); when IMHO the team gave it all and looked exhausted the next day. Also factor in that this was Demko’s first game since Jan 18th and he looked expectedly rusty. The next stinker was Mar24th vs the CBJ after a tough 1-0 loss on March23rd to Calgary (one team playing for nothing and CBJ coming in 5 games without a win fighting for their playoff lives ). Now, I am not denying that Demko let in a few goals that he would have wanted back, but context is important when you quote stats.

      • I think my point has been lost. Demko’s SV% is effectively at the league average, suggesting he has been an average goaltender. But a deep dive into the numbers show that Demko has been elite except for a few games that were blowouts. Contrast that with an alternative calculation where Demko gets a league average SV% in every game. It would be fair to say “meh” and conclude that Demko is not a good goaltender.

        That’s my point. His average gives one the impression that he’s “average” but Demko is actually a really good goaltender.

        And to add one more point, contrast that with Markstrom. It took Markstrom years to get to where he is now. Demko is putting up elite numbers in less than 10 NHL games, which is only a continuation of his development through the NCAA and AHL. And I’ve watched him play, he has an imposing blend of technical prowess with athleticism.

        While recognizing that the sample size is inadequate, I’m more than willing to stake the claim that Demko could take over the starting role before the end of next season, if he continues to produce as I see it, eye-test and stats-wise.

  • I don’t feel Demko is ready for the starters role yet. So 3 years at 4-5 mil without trade or movement protection sounds right for Markstrom. Expansion draft will be a factor in this fairly soon.

    • Demko is absolutely not ready to be handed the starter’s gig. His injuries this year derailed any hope of getting a better read on what he’s ready for. Markstrom should be signed to a contract with no trade protection…somewhere under $5mil/year and his future with the club should be tied to Demko’s development. If Demko grows into the starter role, trade him at the deadline or at next years draft. If Demko never takes the next step, Markstrom is the backbone until the next starter is found, be it DiPietro, Kielly or someoe else.
      Even if they hold off signing him, they should do everything in their power to make sure he doesn’t walk at the end of next year for nothing. That or overpaying him are the 2 landmines Benning has to avoid.

  • I’d throw more money at Markstrom for shorter term – $5.5 million for two years, for example. They have lots of cap space right now, it gives them time to see what they have in Demko and Dipietro, and doesn’t bind them long-term to a 30+ goalie when their young stars are coming into their next contracts.

    • And yet makes him untradable unless he outperforms his current stats which seems unlikely. He’s either a part of the core or a future trade chip. Hampering either of those scenarios seems misguided.

      • It doesn’t make him untradeable at all. It’s highly doubtful the team would want to trade him next year, and if they want to make him available at the deadline in two years’ time, his salary is pro-rated and the team can retain up to 50%, making him very easy to move.

  • Sign Marky. Keep Demko too and let them cross that Seattle expansion bridge when they get to it, with contingencies in place of course. Thatcher looks pretty good but is still a way’s away from being a proven and bonafide NHL goalie. We’ll see. A lot can certainly change between now and that time but at least they have a decent tandem going forward. Wasn’t always this way.

    • Demko has had a few good games and some good saves, but a lot of them have been of the Potvin/ flail variety. He is doing great, all things considered, and should improve a lot working with Ian Clark. Markstrom, on the other hand, is dialed in, reactionary, and positionally sound. He has been a wall. It used to be Ryan Miller was positionally sound and Markstrom was “dynamic” (in other words having to make athletic saves perhaps in part to poor positioning), now Markstrom has it figured out. That kind of improvement is an “A-Ha!” type improvement as much as a physical training, and gives me confidence that his success has not been because he is lucky or streaky. My bet is that he will bring this type of game until he either loses confidence, interest, or gets old/ injured. He also is very emotionally involved and you can see on the ice that he is a leader and the guys love him. He will be worth the money he gets and I’m not worried too much about term, but I still hope he signs a reasonable team friendly deal.

  • I don’t trust Benning. He is awful on contracts. Decent at drafting but keep him away from signing contracts. I would rather see Markstrom walk. He has had one good year. He can be an absolute sieve if his confidence wains.

    • Agreed 100% regarding Benning.

      Obviously I don’t want to see anybody walk as the team would get nothing in return.

      I would offer Markstrom a 3yr deal between $4-4.5M per but I wouldn’t even bother negotiating with his camp until next spring. Why? Cause why not? Its not like his numbers can get much better, therefore why bother negotiating with him at a time when it doesn’t do any favours for the team?

      Wait it out and see what you have in Demko (so long as Free actually let’s the kid play next year, and I don’t mean in the same awful way that Nilsson was given the harder games of back to backs).

      The team as a whole needs to figure out how to both allow players to play so they can see what they have in them, while at the same time, NOT devaluing them. This means not playing guys like Goldy and other offensively gifted players in the bottom 6 where their play is stagnated by the likes of Sutter, Granlund, Beagle, Motte, Shaller, Eriksson, ect..).

  • Is Markstrom the reason for the better season or is it Ian Clark?

    If it’s largely due to Clark, then Clark is more valuable than Markstrom and decisions should be made with this in mind.

    The fact Clark’s contract expires soon is another factor.

    This team is dead last in scoring chance differential, so there is a strong argument they have the worst collection of skaters in the league. The only significant addition to the team next season will be Hughes and there are no other elite prospects on the horizon to move the needle.

    Keeping Markstrom for 2-3 years will add nothing to this team except a chance to move a 27th team in possession to 20th place in the standings. A difficult place to be for a supposedly rebuilding team with no real prospect wave on the horizon.

    I say get what youth you can for Markstrom and let Clark turn Demko into another Markstrom.

    Crappy teams with not much in the pipeline can’t afford two good goalies.