Seriously, I’d like to know.
I have asked this question for the better part of a calendar year now but I’d like to know “Why should Jacob Markstrom be the Vancouver Canucks’ next franchise goaltender?”
Is it because he’s played well the last two seasons and has found a “rhythm”? Maybe it’s because the team likes him and he can shoulder a considerable amount of games during the season? It could be that he’s been the best option they’ve had since Roberto Luongo.
Let’s think about that for a minute: is Canucks Nation anointing Markstrom because no one else has emerged as a clear frontrunner since Luongo’s departure? He’s only on this team because Vancouver needed a goalie to come back in that trade.
That same year, Thatcher Demko was drafted by the Canucks and has finally earned consideration for the top job. So who should they keep?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Markstrom is a bad choice but it’s quite typical that Vancouver feels they have to keep Markstrom, and most likely for a term longer than is necessary. Every Canucks decision seems to feel like it’s the most important decision ever made and that no other franchise has problems that resemble theirs.
Sadly, this is not even remotely true.
A wise man once labelled the Canucks “mediocre”, and to this award-winning writer (I’ve won awards, not because of writing) signing a mediocre goaltender to a large contract would not be a wise use of company funds.
Teams move on from players all the time, in every sport, every single day. The problem with the Canucks as a franchise is that they hold onto assets for far too long and eventually, those assets turn into liabilities.
Again, I’m not saying Markstrom is a liability but he enters free agency at a very pivotal time for both him and the team he has represented for roughly the past seven years. Most of his tenure has been spent as a backup and eventually as the choice to take over as the starter.
Markstrom is about to sign a contract that will likely be the best chance of his career to cash in on a big payday and for a goaltender that isn’t Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lundqvist, or Roberto Luongo, he’ll likely only get one shot to do it right.
Rumours have swirled that he’ll want a four or five-year deal and roughly $5-6 million AAV. That’s all well and good but should the Canucks be the team that offers that to him?
Is THIS the goaltender they want to backstop them in their realistic quest for the Stanley Cup? Vancouver’s core has been established up front and on the blue line and pieces will now need to be added and moulded to shape this team into a contender. As good as Markstrom has been, I’m not sure he’s THE guy to lead this team in a do-or-die matchup.
30-year-old goalies don’t exactly age like fine wine. If he does, he’ll need to prove he’s like some of his cohorts.
Markstrom has a handful of comparables this offseason and the first one seems to have set the market:
Robin Lehner: Signing: The Golden Knights and Robin Lehner have agreed on a five-year, $25 million ($5.0M AAV) contract extension, to be signed after the playoffs. https://t.co/x3sRlLKOTh
— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) September 11, 2020
If Lehner is going to get that type of deal, the Canucks might want to play hardball and make sure they don’t have to offer that kind of cash to the big Swede.
Statistically, both goalies are similar (not the same) but Lehner has played 10 more playoff games than Markstrom and has a .926 SV% compared to Marky’s .919. Lehner also has 15 career regular-season shutouts to Markstrom’s 5, per NHL.com.
Markstrom has been a rock for the Canucks on the backend and has found his game while putting up a .918 SV% this season. There was a goalie ranking list that came out earlier this season that didn’t have Markstrom in the top-10 and Canucks fans were furious, feeling he should have warranted Vezina nominations at the time.
Markstrom wasn’t even the 15th best goaltender this season in regards to SV%, he was ranked 17th. He was T-29 in GAA with a 2.75 rating. Signing away $5M per season to a guy that isn’t even top-10 seems like a stretch.
The other problem the Canucks are facing is a flat cap… oh and the issue of deciding which key players to re-sign including Tyler Toffoli, Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher, Tyler Motte, Josh Leivo, and Jake Virtanen.
Vancouver has roughly $14 million in cap space for next season and it would be almost impossible to sign all of those players under that number. It’s “possible” that Micheal Ferland’s contract gets shifted into an LTIR situation if he’s ruled unfit to continue his career. His $3.5M AAV could lock up a few players but that’s a big maybe at best.
So, is locking up Jacob Markstrom the right thing to do just because he’s “been here” and the team is loyal to him? That should never be the reason to keep any player unless it’s the Sedins.
Getting back to Demko, when Vancouver drafted him he was eventually going to be the next one in line to take the starter’s role. He may not be the undisputed starter but he has crossed over from backup to challenger much like Cory Schneider did with Luongo. The parallels to that goalie battle are eerily similar.
Demko proved he could carry the Canucks at the most crucial point of their playoff run and aside from two goals over the span of 180 minutes against the Vegas Golden Knights, Demko was almost literally a brick wall. Markstrom was great until Demko was called upon but their two playing styles couldn’t be more different.
Ian Clark has done a tremendous job shaping both netminders but it’s Thatcher Demko’s cool demeanour that wins out for me. He doesn’t get rattled, his angles look just a little bit tighter and more square. He doesn’t seem to rely on a reverse VH setup and he sure doesn’t get adventurous when it comes to playing the puck.
Thatcher has achieved the same amount of professional success as Markstrom in a shorter time period and is likely only going to get better whereas Markstrom is 30 years old and might only have two more prime seasons left.
Sure, sign Jacob to a deal but don’t complain about anchoring contracts when you can’t sign the next wave of stars because you had to make sure Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson were taken care of in the years prior.
The Canucks need to stop making the same types of mistakes and learn to treat their team like a business and not a best friend.