In a perfect world, Jacob Markstrom would sign a new deal that’s under $6 million annually without a no-trade or movement clause; leaving the Vancouver Canucks with the option to expose him in the Seattle expansion draft while splitting netminding duties next season with Thatcher Demko.
However, we’ve known for a long time now that this world isn’t perfect, especially in the flat cap world the Canucks now live in. The team’s MVP of the past two seasons deserves a pretty hefty pay raise from his modest $3.66 million dollar cap hit. The Canucks may decide that they don’t want to be the ones handing out that hefty pay raise.
Benning on Markstrom/Demko, "I learned before I got here, this market needs 2 good goalies with the amount of travel that #Canucks do in a season."
"Doesn’t say anywhere in the rule book that you can’t have 2 good goalies."
"Markstrom has earned the right to test the market."
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) September 10, 2020
Now, in the case that Markstrom does leave in October, the Canucks do have some options on who to replace him with and help Demko grow in this league. Another free agent goaltender not named Markstrom would also cost the team less on the salary cap.
In a condensed season that may even feature travel, having two goalies will be key to maintain a playoff spot. Ideally, that would be Markstrom, but there are more than a few teams who could be gearing up big offers to get Markstrom to leave Vancouver.
Here are some potential targets that can help Demko hold down the fort next year if Markstrom departs.
Greiss, who will be turning 35 this January, has played in 101 games in the past three seasons on the long island while making $3.33 million per year.
During his time with the Islanders, Greiss has shared the net with Jaroslav Halak, Robin Lehner, and Semyon Varlamov. Greiss is a reliable veteran who can hold his own when called upon could be a great safety net for Demko if things go sideways.
This year in 25 games started or more among goalies, Greiss ranks in the top 25 in both goals-against average and save percentage with a 2.27 GAA and a .913 SV%. While in the 2020 playoffs, he is spotting a 2.02GAA and a .929SV% thus far.
Suppose Greiss decides not to hang-up the laces or go back home to Germany, he could be a great addition who would provide stability and help Demko grow.
From Edmonton to Philadelphia to Calgary, the last three years have been a whirlwind for the 33-year-old Talbot.
His second year in Edmonton, he backstopped the Oilers to the second round of the playoffs in 2017 while earning 42 wins along the way. Since then, his numbers have taken a hit but has bounced back to what some might say are decent backup goalie numbers.
In the 2019-20 season, Talbot signed with the Flames where he and David Rittich battled for the number one spot that eventually went to Rittich.
In 26 games, Talbot ranked in the top 20 in both goals-against averages and save percentage with a minimum of 25 games started. Sporting a 2.63 goals against average and a .919 save percentage, Talbot’s numbers are respectable for a backup goalie who will be making the same or less than $2.750 million, which is what he made this previous season.
Called upon by Rick Bowness in the 2020 playoffs due to an injury to Ben Bishop, 34-year-old Anton Khudobin would bring experience in both the regular season and postseason.
In his last season with the Stars — who have Ben Bishop locked for another few more seasons and emerging prospect Jake Oettinger knocking on the door — Khudobin’s time is all but up in the lone star state.
Ranked first in the league in save percentage with a save percentage of .930 and second in goals-against with 2.22 (among goalies who started 25 or more games), Khudobin suited up 30 times for the Stars this season while Bishop got the nod 44 times.
Spending time in Boston before donning the Stars sweater, Khudobin’s average from the last three years is pretty good.
Currently making $2.5 million per year, even if a raise is in order for the 11-year veteran, it won’t be much and will be less than 3.6 million.
Khudobin has a proven track record and would be great for the Canucks.
Two of the last three years in Philadelphia, Brian Elliott was “the guy” until budding star Carter Hart entered the fray. Mentoring Hart this past season, Elliott could play mentor for another budding star in Demko next season.
With a .899 save percentage and 2.87 goals-against average, Elliott’s role would be mostly in helping Demko emerge as a top-five goalie in the league while providing some relief in both appearances and cap space if he decides not to hang them up.
Elliott is an unrestricted free agent who made $2 million on a one year deal with the Flyers this past season.
Names like Aaron Dell, Craig Anderson, and Mike Smith are also unrestricted free agents, but one name that could be on the market — though he still has one year remaining on his contract at $7 million — is Marc-Andre Fleury.
If Vegas were to move on from Fleury, the Canucks could be a landing stop for the Stanley Cup Champion. Still, Vegas would likely need to retain half of his salary for that to happen — that’s 3.5 million on their payroll — which could be challenging since they’re up against the cap.
All four goalies mentioned above would provide stability and mentorship to Demko for the next few seasons, should the Canucks let Markstrom walk.