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Monday Mailbag PART 2: Five predictions for the Vancouver Canucks’ offseason, and keeping both Markstrom and Demko next season

This is a continuation of yesterday’s mailbag since we received so many questions! To read part one, click here.

Let’s get into the back half of these questions!

This is a topic that has the potential to divide the fanbase, if it hasn’t done so already. I’m going to be sitting down with goaltending guru Kevin Woodley to pick his brain on this subject, but my current opinion is that the Canucks are making the right move by not throwing a blank cheque at Jacob Markstrom.

They have some comfort in knowing that if Markstrom’s camp doesn’t come down, they have a young goaltender in Thatcher Demko who has shown flashes of brilliance — especially recently — and presumably, is only going to get better.

If the Canucks let Markstrom walk, they’ll need to sign a competent goaltender to backup Demko. A name I like is Thomas Greiss, who won’t come in at much higher than $3 million at the maximum. That’s roughly three extra million dollars the Canucks are saving and can use elsewhere to shore up the defence ahead of next season.

That being said, I’m not convinced letting Markstrom walk is the right move or that it’s a move the Canucks are comfortable making just yet. Goaltending coach Ian Clark will surely be a big voice in this decision, but more on that in the coming days….

Predictions! The things that are rarely correct! Here are five:

1. The Canucks will change up the leadership group heading into next season. While I still think Alex Edler will have an “A” on his uniform, I think J.T. Miller will also be given one.

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2. Jake Virtanen will get traded in a package with Brandon Sutter. No, not Brock Boeser! I predict Jake Virtanen will be the odd man out coming next season. Adding him to a package with say a Brandon Sutter or Loui Eriksson — two players TSN’s Farhan Lalji said the Canucks believe they can move out this offseason — could be something the Canucks pull the trigger on. To be clear, Farhan’s report is that the Canucks believe they can move out one of these players and to me, Sutter is the one with the most value.

Adding the negotiating rights to Virtanen as a sweetener to that package could be what entices another team to take on Sutter and the final year of his contract, which would free up $4.375 on the Canucks’ books next season. Take into account the fact the Canucks can then scratch negotiating a new contract for Virtanen off their offseason to do list, and this trade idea makes even more sense.

3. Josh Leivo will be re-signed. You’ve likely read many times by now that Josh Leivo is a cheap option who can be a very serviceable middle six winger who can play in the top six if an injury occurs. Despite putting up good underlying and surface level statistics this year, Leivo isn’t due for a big pay raise on account of his knee injury. Should that knee be healed up in the near future, I fully expect the Canucks to take advantage of this and add him to their roster when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

4. Troy Stecher takes a hometown discount. Troy Stecher finds himself in a similar situation to the one Ben Hutton was in last offseason when the Canucks chose not to qualify him due to his arbitration rights. I predict the Canucks and Stecher won’t go to arbitration and that Stecher will sign for under his market value to stay with his hometown team.

5. Loui Eriksson retires, or the two sides mutually terminate his contract. Here’s my absolute boldest prediction of the bunch. Loui Eriksson has played his last game as a Vancouver Canuck. We’ve already talked about how trading Sutter would free up cap space, but getting Eriksson’s $6 million off the books would be huge for this Canucks team. If this were to happen, the Canucks would be able to turn their focus to capitalizing on the fact that their two best players are on ELC’s for one more season, which is certainly more than ideal. The way I see it happening is the Canucks being adamant on burying Loui’s contract in the minors and Eriksson wanting one last shot at the NHL somewhere else.

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I mean, to his credit, he was actually pretty good in the postseason games he played for the Canucks. Not $6 million good, but certainly good enough to get a job at the NHL level elsewhere.

I answered the first half of this question in yesterday’s mailbag, but let’s talk about Sven Baertschi.

Remember him? It’s my understanding that Sven Baertschi’s time as a Vancouver Canuck is basically finished. It seems that neither the player nor the organization have hopes of mending this relationship and that both sides have agreed the best thing moving forward is to find a new home for Baertschi.

The Canucks tried hard to move Baertschi this season, but couldn’t find any suitors. Perhaps they’re able to this offseason? Regardless, I’m confident we’ve seen the last of Baertschi in a Canucks’ uniform, unless something has changed. We’ll have to wait and see what the Canucks choose to do this offseason.

It’s still unclear if there will be an end of season media availability, which is where we typically find out the nature of injuries that players were battling through.

There were reports that Tyler Toffoli’s injury was a leg one that required a walking boot, and rumours that J.T. Miller was playing through an apparent hand/wrist injury. Personally, I haven’t heard or seen anything regarding a potential injury to Gaudette, and we likely won’t unless there’s an end of season media availability.

This is an interesting point, and one that has seemingly gotten lost in the wake of Demko’s stellar postseason performances. It’s very possible the Canucks go into next season with both goaltenders under contract. They don’t really need to move one until the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, but the longer into the season they wait, each goaltender’s value will likely decrease accordingly.

A world certainly exists where the Canucks go into next season with both goaltenders, but there will undoubtedly be multiple suitors gunning for Demko’s services the minute Markstrom signs a contract with the Canucks, and Vancouver will certainly be taking those calls. There’s also the possibility of the Demko camp requesting a trade, at which point, the Canucks won’t have much choice but to deal Demko to one of those suitors.

Further, there’s even the possibility of the Canucks going into the expansion draft with both goaltenders, and hoping that through creative contract construction with a heft signing bonus due to Markstrom shortly after the Kraken would select him, it’ll be enough to make Seattle pass on him. This was first proposed by The Athletic’s Thomas Drance and would be an outside the box method for the Canucks to try to keep both goaltenders.

Again, this will certainly be the main storyline to watch this offseason.

The King Clancy Award winner Matt Dumba, is a solid right shot defenceman who holds his own at 5 on 5 and can move the puck extremely well.

The Canucks also have a player that the Minnesota Wild have expressed interest in the past, Brock Boeser. I maintain the stance that we’ve yet to see the best from Boeser, but there is undoubtedly a case to be made for dealing from a position of strength — albeit not a ton of strength — to fix a glaring weakness.

As was on full display against Vegas, the Canucks need to get better at breaking out of their own end and getting the puck up quick in transition, and Dumba could certainly help with that.

So yes, the Canucks should absolutely be interested in Dumba. That being said, if the cost to acquire him is too much, they can certainly live without him.

Now to wrap up the mailbag, a look at the future, and how the bar has been raised in this city for the first time in a long time.

The fact of the matter is, not making the playoffs next year just isn’t good enough. I haven’t seen anybody who still thinks the Canucks are rebuilding, but the rebuild is over. They’ve got two major core pieces in place with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes that they know have what it takes to compete and succeed in the playoffs. The goal now needs to be surrounding these two superstars with talent that can pitch in to get them over the hump and back into the Stanley Cup Final.

The Canucks also have a guy in Vasili Podkolzin who is expected to absolutely dominate at the World Juniors this year and should give them a big boost in the secondary scoring department on a three year entry level deal as soon as late next season.

As a great man once said, the Canucks need an army. The bar has been raised thanks to this playoff run, and anything short of making the playoffs will be viewed as a failure by not only fans, but the players, ownership, fans, and management alike.

That’s it for this week’s two part mailbag! I’ve never received this many questions, so thanks to everyone who participated! To ask a question in a future mailbag, be sure to follow me on Twitter @QuadreIli and look out for the mailbag question each week!

Have a great week everybody!