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Abbotsford Canucks G Zach Sawchenko to test free agency: report

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Photo credit:© James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Hall
14 days ago
We are just days away from the official opening of the Free Agent Frenzy, and the Vancouver Canucks have some work to do.
 
Some of that work will be focused between the pipes.
As of today, the club has just two professional netminders—Thatcher Demko and Nikita Tolopilo—signed to deals through the 2024-25 season, with both Casey DeSmith (UFA) and Artūrs Šilovs (RFA) still unsigned. While the Latvian up-and-comer is nearly a lock to receive a new deal, it’s probable that DeSmith has played his final game as a Canuck.
According to CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal, the team may be forced to fill one more spot.
Zach Sawchenko, who signed a one-year deal last Canada Day, will reportedly test the free agent market rather than signing an extension with the team.
 
Despite 73 AHL games on his resume heading into the season, he wasn’t necessarily given a proper shot to showcase his potential within the Canucks’ system. Instead, he spent most of the season glued to the press box.
With Abbotsford netminders Artūrs Šilovs and (at the time) newly signed Nikita Tolopilo remaining sturdy and, more importantly, healthy, it took a system-wide injury crash for Sawchenko to draw into the lineup.
With both Thatcher Demko and Casey DeSmith suffering late-season injuries, the club were forced to delve deep into the cupboards to fill the net on an emergency basis.
Suddenly, the 26-year-old abruptly found himself as the lone option down on the farm. Despite not making his debut until March, he finished the 2023-24 campaign as the team’s starting netminder.
Getting into six regular-season games, he posted strong numbers with a 4-1-0 record and a .924 save percentage, allowing more than two goals on just one occasion during that stretch. He backed that up with a respectable showing in the playoffs, posting a 2-4-0 record while being considered one of the team’s top performers despite the eventual elimination.
Most memorably, Sawchenko stood incredibly tall in their opening-round clinching victory, making a career-high 47 saves to backstop Abby to a 2-1 victory and propel them to a Semifinal berth.
While he suffered an eventual three-game sweep in round two, it was an encouraging stretch for the pending UFA.
In his post-season media scrum, ex-Head Coach Jeremy Colliton had nothing but praise for the AHL veteran.
“A good example for the group on how you got to prepare for your opportunity — you never know when it’s going to come,” Collition said. “He’s a really good pro and very well respected by the group for how he carried himself all year.”
With a short but sweet showcase, he’ll now take his talents to the open market, hoping to find a new landing spot where he can see some games.
With that, the Canucks will be on the lookout for a new goalie for the system. As Rick Dhaliwal’s tweet indicates, the target may be geared toward a veteran netminder — whether that job would be filled in Abbotsford or Vancouver.
One name that sparks interest is North Vancouver native Martin Jones. With four teams in as many years, the now 34-year-old has moved through the league and saw his first taste of AHL action in 11 years last season within the Toronto Maple Leafs system.
As a longstanding veteran, he could provide the organization with solid depth, capable of handling duties at either level, if need be. With an estimated career earnings of $36,918,090 (according to CapFriendly), perhaps the Canucks could get him on the cheap.
Who are some names you would like to see the team target?

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