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Photo Credit: © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Jacob Markstrom is due for a hefty contract in 2020-2021

It’s a contract year for Jacob Markstrom, and at 29, he’s playing like a man who knows it’s going to be his last real chance to cash in on a long-term deal. That isn’t to say that he’s the kind of player who paces himself, though. The Canucks’ starter isn’t the type to coast early on and ramp up his compete level the way some players do towards the end of their contracts. His well-known, hyper-competitive nature means that he’s constantly pushing himself to be better, and now the results have come at the optimal time.

It’s been good news for the Canucks. Any team in the playoff hunt wants to get the most out of their core players, regardless of contract status. However, when the Canucks season does come to an end, one way or another, a decision regarding the soon to be 30-year-old netminder awaits if a deal isn’t made before then.

Last month, Ian MacIntyre reported that opening negotiations with Markstrom was on Jim Benning’s to-do list. It’s unclear how much progress has been made in any negotiations since that December 11th report, but a mid-season resolution shouldn’t be expected. While Benning may view it as sensible to close on a mid-season deal, Markstrom’s camp likely doesn’t see it that way with plenty of time left in the season to increase his value.

An agent quoted in Harman Dayal’s article on the subject mentioned that Markstrom is likely looking for $5.5-6 million on a four or five-year deal. This provides us with some useful context from within the industry, but it’s also liable to change if Markstrom improves in the second half the way he did in 2018-19.

Another notable tidbit from the article is the agent’s emphasis on the term of the contract. Considering he’s never had a contract with more long-term security or a higher AAV than the $11 million 3-year deal he’s currently on, it’s easy to see why Markstrom would be looking to get as much security as possible in what could be his last contract.

This has the potential to be a tough situation for the Canucks to navigate. They’ll have to weigh the effects of potentially handing 5 years and a NMC to Markstrom with the expansion draft and contract extensions to Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes looming.

Of course, to better understand the value Markstrom holds, we should consider his statistical body of work throughout his career.

Markstrom has been able to rediscover his game since being traded to Vancouver back in 2014. He’s been steadily improving over the past 5 seasons, and relative to his career, he’s putting up his best combination of standard SV% and GAA statistics yet in 2019-20.

SV% GAA
2015-16 0.915 2.73
2016-17 0.910 2.63
2017-18 0.912 2.71
2018-19 0.912 2.77
2019-20 0.917 2.72

For context, Markstrom put up a .898 SV% and 3.21 GAA over 4 seasons in Florida.

Although he’s grown into a much better version of himself, we can’t speculate on his next contract without adding league context. The table below lists his SV%, GAA and Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) at all strengths and 5 on 5, along with the league rank in brackets at the time of this writing.

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All Strengths 5 on 5
SV% .917 (14) .924 (21)
GAA 2.72 (19) 2.53 (33)
GSAA 7.69 (13) 4.03 (17)

*Minimum 500 minutes played

*Via NaturalStatTrick.com

Among the 58 qualified goalies, it’s clear that Markstrom is putting up above-average numbers. Perhaps the most important statistic in making that clear is his GSAA of 4.03. For those unfamiliar with GSAA, it means that based on the number of shots Markstrom has faced, with his SV% he has allowed at least 7 fewer goals against compared to what a league-average SV% would allow.

Another statistic that gives us a better understanding of how Markstrom’s performance has compared to the rest of the league is Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx). It’s one that you may have seen used around CA since the offseason and luckily for us, ChartingHockey has a terrific chart for it.

gsax

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Markstrom is ranked 11th on this list, which only further proves that he is, at the very least, a top-15 goaltender in the NHL.

The last key consideration I’ll touch on is contract comparables. To develop a shortlist of possibly similar goalie contracts, I filtered it down to goalies who signed as UFAs within the last 5 years to contracts carrying cap hits from $4-8 million over a 4-8 year term. The dollar and term parameters were set based on speculation from various sources. While it can be argued that Markstrom wouldn’t take a number on the low end of either parameter and that a team wouldn’t hand out one on the high end, I believe those figures are on the extent of what is possible when we consider there is still half a season to play.

Player Signing Date Signing Age Clause Length Cap Hit Cap Hit %
Semyon Varlamov 01-Jul-19 31 NTC 4 $5,000,000 6.10%
Martin Jones 01-Jul-17 27 M-NTC 6 $5,750,000 7.70%
Ben Bishop 12-May-17 30 NMC 6 $4,916,666 6.70%
Devan Dubnyk 27-Jun-15 29 M-NTC 6 $4,333,333 6.10%

The four names above seem to be the best comparables for the Canuck pending UFA. Only Devan Dubnyk had better statistics in the year of his signing than Markstrom currently does, however, he spent his two prior seasons struggling mightily in Edmonton, Nashville and the AHL. Although imperfect, the best comparable from the list is Semyon Varlamov, based on the two players’ respective statistical profiles. While I thought the Islanders overpaid at the time of the signing, it will be looked at as a benchmark for both sides in the Markstrom negotiations.

If Markstrom continues his raised level of play throughout the season, I would expect him to receive more term than Varlomov was able to get, while achieving close to the same cap hit percentage. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something in the neighbourhood of $5-5.5 million per year on a 5-year deal with a NMC. Those would be numbers that many of us would have taken the under on before this season began.

Whether the Canucks will feel comfortable handing out that type of contract to Markstrom is another story.