The Canucks announced their team award winners last night at their final home game of the season against the San Jose Sharks. Jacob Markstrom took home the MVP, Elias Pettersson was dubbed the team’s Most Exciting Player, Antoine Roussel the team’s Unsung Hero, and Alex Edler won the award for the team’s best defenceman. Do you agree with the final results? Why or why not? What did your ballot look like?
The smart play would have been to ask a question about it last week, but Jacob Markstrom’s dominant play forced my hand in trying to keep the WWYDW column as relevant as possible.
Last week I asked: How would you handle the goalie situation next season? Would you sign Jacob Markstrom to an extension?
You need to give significant games to both Markstrom and Demko next season to see who is the better goaltender. Markstrom and Demko are coming from totally opposite directions: Can Markstrom prove that he is a legitimate starting goaltender by overcoming his previous poor play and continuing to provide quality starts? Conversely, can Demko prove that he can become a legitimate starting goaltender by translating his exceptional play in the NCAA and AHL to the NHL with limited starts as a back-up? In my mind, it’s disappointing that Markstrom’s pending UFA status and the expansion draft only leave us with half a season next year to see.
In my mind, Benning needs to figure this out before next year’s trade deadline. The main reason is that Markstrom is going to be a UFA and in a prime position to command a contract with salary and term. If he is a legit starter, then he deserves it. However, the length of that kind of UFA contract (4-6 years) is going to outlast Demko’s RFA status (4 years) and eat up starts for Demko. I don’t see a 2-3 year deal for Markstrom as realistic. The risk is that Demko is less likely to extend as Markstrom’s replacement and will walk as a UFA if he spent his prime age as a back-up. As Cageyvet pointed out, the expansion draft will force us to protect one or the other so there is a good chance we will lose one.
Assuming that Markstrom and Demko both prove to be legitimate starters, it’s my opinion that we should run with Demko. Although he hasn’t proven himself to be a starter *yet*, he has proven that he can adapt and excel at the NCAA and AHL level. His age and RFA status work in his favour. He has been progressing according to the plan. Demko passes the eye test (i.e. good technique) and has the stats to back it up. His rocky starts are not atypical for a rookie – only unrealistic armchair GM’s and trolls would expect every prospect to be an impact player in their rookie season. His progress has been no different from Cory Schneider, who was one of the elite goaltenders in the league.
There are plenty of teams could use a starting goaltender: Calgary, Columbus, Detroit, Ottawa, Arizona, NYR, Buffalo, and St. Louis are all teams that could use a better goaltender now or shortly after Demko’s UFA contract kicks in. I would trade Markstrom at next year’s trade deadline for the best deal possible (possibly earlier if a good deal appeared) rather than extending him and risk losing him to expansion in June 2021. I would take the highest value of picks and prospects plus a back-up goaltender for Demko if one wasn’t already under contract.
I’m a Markstrom fan but it’s going to be hard to tell that from this post, because I’m really wary of the inconsistency in many goalies from year to year, of long term contracts and especially taking the risk of giving long term deals to players coming out of the usual age of prime NHL performance.
1. Even though the question posed wasn’t about this season, I wouldn’t play him much the rest of this season. Without looking at the stats he has to be close to the league lead in scoring chances faced and imo he’s tired and his play is showing it. He’s tired, Demko isn’t.
2. I think the Canucks should, immediately on the season ending, start trying to negotiate an extension. Keeping in mind he’s at the age to look for a retirement contract it may be tough to come to terms. The Canucks have to keep in mind he’ll turn 30 next season, goalies performances have a tendency to swing up and down from year to year this is the first season he’s looked like a solid NHL starter, so they have to be wary of overpaying in price or term.
The ideal length of a contract for the Canucks is probably three years. He’ll probably want longer. Puck Viking’s comment suggesting Koskinen money ($4.5 mm per) is probably in the right range.
3. No consideration should be given to a no move clause so as to have flexibility as to which goalie to protect in the expansion draft. If Markstrom will take a discount for a limited no trade clause that can be on the table.
4. If it looks like it will be difficult to sign him, then rather than risk losing him for nothing I’d suggested starting to look for a trade right away. It will change the easy plan they have for goalies next season (NHL-Markstrom, Demko, AHL-Bachman, DiPietro) whenever the deal is done and if the Canucks need to get a replacement for next season it would be nice to know it and be able to look at free agents this summer rather than be scrambling to trade for a goaltender some time between the start of the season and the trade deadline.
Of course, in the sad but possible event they’re looking to replace Markstrom, I’d be inclined to go short term and not look at elite guys. Some may feel more optimistic but imo the Canucks aren’t in the position (near contending for the Cup) which makes going into the bidding wars for elite free agents, which almost always means overpaying in money and in term, worthy of consideration.
I can live with four years (not more) @ the high end of his range (< $4.5). I’ve seen enough from Markstrom this season to see real improvement that works against the trend for players of his age. There have been far fewer of those short-side, over the shoulder goals that got really tired in years past. He’s clearly tweaked his game and is benefitting from regular play. He may be closing hard on 30, but there’s less wear on his treads than on many players his age since he’s been something of a late-bloomer.
The best-case (and most realistic) scenario is that Demko gets a few more starts next year so the team can gauge where he’s at. If he is the goalie of the future, you expose Markstrom, and hope Seattle doesn’t see him as the franchise backstop (hello, M.-A. Fleury). And, maybe, the higher salary is enough to deter a budget-conscious expansion team. If you get to keep both, then you go into the 2020-2021 season with a 1A/1B fight that’s a lot more interesting than Markstrom/Nilsson ever was.
All that said, the Canucks need to tread carefully and avoid the aging goalie trap they’ve fallen into in the past with Miller and Luongo: over-playing a 30+ guy to the point where performances dip and/or injuries spring up. At some point, I’ll have to see if the data backs this up, but I don’t think contending teams should have their goalies playing more than ~55-60 games a season if you want to ride them in the playoffs. This becomes even more of an issue as they age.
From what I’ve seen of Demko he still has 2 years of development ahead of him. It’s not like he’s a Carter Hart from instance. His last game was simply very poor, soft goals and rebound control. If this is the case who is best placed to be the #1 and I’d tend to think it would be nuts not to say that Markstrom is that guy. He still have 1 year left at avery good salary so a further 2-3 year beyond would be OK with me. The question is what does Markstrom want, I tend to think there’s a market for his services. If you were his agent would you want a three year contract as a 29 year old ?. If I’m Markstrom I’d want aa 5 year at $5 to 6 range. If I’m JB do I have faith that Demko will be better than Markstrom. Demko is a RFA this summer how long a term will he want. IMHO I sign the known quantity ( JM ) and keep my fingers crossed with Demko will sign for 2 years bridge deal.
I see Markstrom not only “getting it” this season in the net, but as a leader on the team. Everything’s a gamble, but I’d put my money on him, he has been a real difference maker and has stolen games. Aside from the last few (as another poster said, he is really over worked), he has found consistency, and that gives me confidence. If I were JB, I have a chat with Ian Clarke to see what he thinks, and sign him 3 to 5 around 4mill, as Puck Viking said. If there is any position where you want to shore up, its the crease, why not give him as much as Beagle or Rousell? He has stolen more games than both of them combined.
Markstrom is not elite (a few months solid play is not enough to break that barrier), but he’s a sound starting goalie and those don’t grow on trees. Offer him an extension and, combined with re-signing Demko this summer, the Canucks goalie situation will look solid for the next few years. That’s nothing to sneeze at, as witnessed by those clubs that seem to constantly struggle finding quality backstops.
Should Markstrom demand an exorbitant or overly long extension then delay re-signing until next year.