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Photo Credit: © Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Canucks’ goalie Louis Domingue finding unique ways to prove his value in contract year

Barring complete and utter disaster, it’s highly unlikely Louis Domingue will appear in a playoff game for the Vancouver Canucks during this postseason.

After losing Jacob Markstrom to a knee injury, the Canucks acquired the 28-year-old journeyman from the New Jersey Devils back in February but he appeared in just one game for Vancouver — a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. That one game was a monumental collapse for both Domingue and the then stumbling Markstromless Canucks, who allowed the Jackets to put up four goals in the last eight minutes of the third period to completely negate a late 3-1 lead.

Domingue didn’t patrol the blue paint again for the rest of the year, but he did travel with the team to Edmonton, while Michael DiPietro did not.

He’s not going to play, but Domingue has found another way to help out his teammates — by being a master in the kitchen.

Domingue has been cooking meals, baking banana bread, cookies, and other goodies for his teammates inside their hotel rooms. He and a few of his teammates have documented the meals on social media, with Domingue posting a photo of his baking supplies with the caption, “bubble life baking for my boys, know your role” on his Instagram story.

As revealed in an anonymous player diary conducted by Thomas Drance of The Athletic, some players are certainly missing home cooking while in the bubble:

As much as I don’t want to complain, and I am impressed by how organized everything is, the food honestly, is the toughest part for me. Professional athletes are used to certain things. I cook a lot, and being able to go home and cook the things that I need, it makes a difference. That’s different here, and it’s been tough to adjust to.

Granted, there are a Chopped Steakhouse and a Studio 99 inside the bubble — and the hotel food is far from terrible — but sometimes, nothing beats a homecooked meal and some freshly baked goods.

Domingue knows this, and while he’s certainly embraced his unique role in the bubble, he could play a much more key role for the Canucks down the line.

This is where this story gets interesting.

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The Devils elected to do a one-for-one goaltender swap with the Canucks, with Vancouver sending Zane McIntyre back the other way. McIntyre lost the starting job to DiPietro in Utica this season, but served the exact purpose the Canucks expected from him when they signed him last summer — to be an insulator goaltender who could eat up starts until DiPietro was ready for the starting job.

Domingue is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year, and the Canucks now find themselves in a similar position to last summer — in need of a goaltender to play in Utica. Granted, it’ll likely be as a backup, but if the market isn’t exactly hot this offseason, Domingue may have to take whatever he can get.

Furthermore, the Canucks’ need for a veteran goaltender is increased due to the rules surrounding the Seattle Kraken expansion draft at the conclusion of next season. This from Thomas Drance:

Whether it’s Domingue or another veteran goaltender, the club will need to sign another goaltender to meet its exposure requirements in the expansion process.

The expansion rules require that all clubs must expose a goaltender who is signed for the 2021-22 season or has restricted free-agent status in the 2021 offseason. The penalties for non-compliance are harsh.

If the Canucks were to protect Markstrom and leave Demko exposed in the expansion draft, then he’d qualify as a player who meets the exposure requirement. The Canucks will need to sign a veteran goaltender, however, if they hope to maintain their flexibility required to flip either Demko or Markstrom and losing a quality netminder for nothing to their new geographic rival in Washington state.

Essentially, because DiPietro is exempt from the expansion draft, if the Canucks want to trade one of Markstrom or Thatcher Demko before the Kraken can get their hands on either goaltender for free, they’ll still need to have a goaltender under contract who they can protect.

Management is aware of this and it’s something that’s certainly on their radar.

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When they sit down this offseason to decide who to fill that void with, Domingue will certainly be near the top of their list. He was a competent NHL backup just a few seasons back with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and if the Canucks face goaltending armageddon next season, calling Domingue up to start a couple of games certainly beats having to call up Richard Bachman. Remember that game?

Having already a past relationship with JT Miller from their time in Tampa Bay together, and being close with fellow Quebecois Antoine Roussel, Domingue is a player who is loved by his teammates and is quickly showing his Canucks teammates exactly why that is.

Given the current bubble situation, the leverage of being a good teammate and a good person to be around is perhaps higher than it’s ever been; and whether or not the Canucks and Domingue agree on a new contract this offseason, his teammates will never forget what he’s done for them at 375 degrees in the middle of the most unprecedented times they’ve ever lived in.