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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Monday Mailbag: The latest on the Jacob Markstrom contract negotiations, the cost of a top four defenceman, and much more

Another week, another mailbag.

Only this week, the majority of the Vancouver Canucks’ players have returned home, reuniting with their loved ones and their dogs after a long 70 days away from them.

Here at CanucksArmy, we are going to have you covered all throughout the offseason, offering instant analysis on the biggest stories, and for me, continuing this mailbag each week.

I was worried there could be a lack of questions, but I don’t think I’ve ever received so many questions for a mailbag. I won’t be able to get to them all, but I will be doing a two part mailbag to get to as many as possible, so look for that tomorrow morning. But first, let’s see what you wonderful people asked this week!

Elias Pettersson proved he belongs in the conversation as one of the best players in the league. Advanced stats indicate that he was a top ten player in the league this year, and his postseason performance speaks for itself.

I didn’t think he could impress me anymore, but I’d say I was most impressed with him. His dedication to both ends of the ice is one seldom seen from young offensively gifted forwards, but it’s exactly what makes Pettersson such a valuable piece for the Canucks going forward. Combine that with a refusal to back down when opponents check him harder in the playoffs, and you can start to understand why Pettersson impressed me most this season.

Honourable mentions: Jacob Markstrom, Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller, (your favourite player here)

This is likely why you clicked on this article, so I’ll get right to it. Last week, Satiar Shah of Sportsnet 650 reported that the last offer he has heard the Canucks extended Jacob Markstrom was at two years in the $8-9 million range. That’s total, by the way, so an average annual salary of $4 or $4.5 million.

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It’s no secret that the Markstrom camp is looking for $6+ plus million and it’s also becoming clear that the Canucks are ready to play hardball at the negotiating table. Markstrom is represented by the super agency Newport Sports, so this will be an interesting storyline to follow this offseason.

The performance of Thatcher Demko in the playoffs certainly gives the Canucks some leverage and some comfort if they indeed lose out on Markstrom to free agency, but no doubt they’ll try extremely hard to get him signed before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in roughly five weeks time (October 9th is the tentative date, but free agency is set to take place a week after the Stanley Cup Final.)

They’re not close to a deal yet, but expect to hear lots about these negotiations over the next four weeks as the two sides attempt to flesh out a new contract.

There are lots of goaltending trade questions this week. I’d presume the value on the negotiating rights to Markstrom would be at about a sixth-round pick, maybe a fifth. For a team with no clear number one goaltender like the Carolina Hurricanes, this could be a good idea, but it’s important to remember that even after trading for the rights, there’s no guarantee Markstrom won’t still test the open waters of free agency.

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Troy Stecher and Josh Leivo are two players who the Canucks will almost certainly get the most bang for their buck. Obviously there are question marks around Leivo’s knee still, but he’s a defensively responsible winger who slots in perfectly on the Canucks’ third line.

He gives that bottom six an offensive boost, and won’t come in at much more than his current $1.5 million contract, on account of his knee injury. Those are two players I believe it will be relatively easy for the Canucks to keep, although rumours have been swirling that the Toronto Maple Leafs (cause of course they have) want to reunite with Leivo.

I think it’s also realistic that they keep Markstrom, as well. He loves Vancouver and has repeatedly expressed his desire to stay here, so I’d suspect him to be a player they “realistically” could hang onto. I still see Chris Tanev as being a potential odd man out solely due to cap reasons, but more on that later.

I should probably group questions together, but I love the free flowing aspect of these mailbags. Little bit of this, little bit of that, type thing. Here’s what I think about these prospects.

As you probably already know, I’m a believer that Olli Juolevi’s training camp, scrimmages, and one playoff game — albeit with sheltered minutes — are all good indications that he can develop into a bottom pairing defender. The question is, can he do it as early as next season?

Adding Jack Rathbone, a defenceman with legitimate top-four upside, to that mix makes this even more interesting. If I’m the Canucks, I’m comfortable allowing both of these guys to come in and challenge for the seventh d-man spot in training camp, and if they exceed expectations greatly, Jordie Benn can become the seventh d-man while one of Rathbone or Juolevi gets third-pairing minutes.

On the right side, I just didn’t see enough from Brogan Rafferty at training camp to say in good faith that he can be a sufficient replacement for one of Troy Stecher or Chris Tanev.

It’s important to note that despite playing the right side in Utica and being a right shot defenceman, Rafferty played the left side for most of his NCAA career at Quinnipiac University.

The idea of using any of these players as sweeteners? Maybe that’s something the Canucks explore, but in terms of what’s most “realistic”, my money is on all three of these players being at training camp this winter.

I’m far from opposed to targeting Max Domi, who was on a dominant line with Bo Horvat during their time with the London Knights and is reportedly being shopped by the Montreal Canadiens. That being said, I think we’ve yet to see the best from Brock Boeser and Adam Gaudette, so personally, I’d turn down this trade if I’m the Canucks.

Danault is 27 and gives the Canucks more stability on the third line in the here and now, but a 23-year-old Gaudette who appears to be trending in the right direction and has been developed by the Canucks seems to be a better option for the future of this young core.

Top four? I think a package featuring Jake Virtanen and a B level prospect such as Kole Lind along with a mid round pick could get it done.

Top 2/3? It’s a package that likely needs to feature Brock Boeser, who general manager Jim Benning already declared his adamant against trading. Anything can happen, but I’d consider Boeser to be the Canucks’ most valuable and somewhat moveable asset.

A precedent for a trade like this is Ryan Johansen getting swapped for Seth Jones back in 2016. Johansen was similar in age but had slightly better production than Boeser, and of course, was a center, which is more valuable than a winger.

The Johansen/Jones trade was one for one, but that’s why I say that to get a legitimate top 2/3 defenceman, it’ll likely need to be a package that features Boeser, not just a one for one swap.

Oh good, more goaltending questions! I think the Canucks will undoubtedly re-evaluate their goaltending situation with this new information that’s been presented to them. If you know Demko’s performance wasn’t just a one off and that he was able to sustain that over three games, it should result in more confidence that he can be at least near Markstrom-level for next season, and cost about $5 million less.

That being said, I think the Canucks are undoubtedly going to heavily consult with goaltending coach Ian Clark before making a final decision. I’ll have a story dropping on this in the coming days, but after talking to some people in Columbus and seeing Clark’s track record that speaks for itself, he’ll be a significant voice that’s consulted in this decision.

Of the names mentioned in this question, I really like Dylan DeMelo. He’s a pending UFA coming off of a $900,000 deal and won’t be getting all that significant of a pay raise. The Canucks are going to need to keep the right side of their blue line afloat if they let Tanev walk, and DeMelo could be an option that won’t break the bank who could certainly help with that.

His underlying numbers — on a weak Ottawa Senators and later, Winnipeg Jets team — speak for themselves:

DeMelo is a player who positively drives play when he’s on the ice and could benefit from playing with a guy like Quinn Hughes or Alex Edler.

Again, this is a cheaper option, who the Canucks would likely get the most bang for their buck from.

This is a very outside the box idea, and one I just don’t see the Canucks even thinking about.

They know all about the dangers of going to free agency, remember Loui Eriksson?

In all seriousness, Hall has a low chance of regressing in the near future, and after a pretty mediocre season along with trying to find work in a flat cap world, Hall likely won’t be cashing in on the big pay day he was anticipating.

Would the Canucks make their forward group better by going after Hall? Sure. But what about their defence and goaltending situation? There are simply too many variables at play for the Canucks to seriously consider going after Hall at this time.

The truth is, nobody really knows just yet. There have been talks of an early January start to the season, with training camps taking place in December, but other than that, there’s nothing set in stone and no new information to report.

That’s all for part one, check back tomorrow for part two! Thanks to the overwhelming number of people who asked questions this week!