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Admittedly Wild Idea: Should the Canucks explore trading Thatcher Demko at what might be peak value?

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
27 days ago
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Alright, it’s going to be caveat city over here for a minute.
We’re going to start off by calling this a thought experiment, more so than a serious case of armchair GMing. We’re going to make it clear that we won’t necessarily agree 100% with all of the arguments we make in conducting said thought experiment.
And we’re definitely going to tell you that, no matter what, the scenario we present in this article is highly, highly unlikely.
But with those caveats out of the way, yeah, we do think there’s at least somewhat of a case to be made for the Vancouver Canucks trading Thatcher Demko this offseason, or at least exploring his value on the market.
We obviously wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now if not for the breakout playoff run of one Arturs Silovs. The 23-year-old came out of virtually nowhere to boot Casey DeSmith out of the net in Demko’s absence and carry the Canucks past the Nashville Predators and all the way to the brink of Game 7 against the eventual Cup Finalists in Edmonton.
In doing so, Silovs has all but secured the backup job for next year. He’s also convinced most that he’s the heir-apparent to Demko, and as such has been effectively penciled in as the starter after Demko’s contract expires in 2026.
The idea of trading Demko now is the idea of handing those reins over a little bit earlier. Not because it is necessary, and not even necessarily because Silovs is ready for it. But because the belief is that he will be ready for it eventually, and because there are some enormous benefits to trading Demko at this, his probable peak remaining value.
Let’s take this one step at a time, and explore that value a bit. It is true that Demko is coming off a still-somewhat-mysterious injury that took him out of the playoffs, and it is true that injuries are a frequent concern for Demko. But that is literally the only factor that might hamper his value, and it doesn’t come close to outweighing his positives.
Injury or no, Demko is coming off a season in which he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy. In doing so, he’s solidified his place among the elite echelon of NHL goalies.
The odds of Demko ever being more valuable than he is now are low. Next season, he’ll be one year away from UFA status himself. The year after, he’s presumably signing a long-term extension at the age of 30. Value-wise, this has got to be his peak.
And there are A LOT of teams out there looking for a goalie of value right now. That list includes some prominent would-be contenders like the Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings, and Colorado Avalanche.
There also aren’t all that many quality netminders available to choose from. The UFA market tops out at names like Laurent Brossoit and Cam Talbot. This has led to a lot of interest in any genuine starter that might be available for trade, even aging ones like our old friend Jacob Markstrom.
What happens when a goaltender as good as Demko is, and in the midst of their prime, gets thrown into such a seller’s market? A massive bidding war that reaches astronomical proportions, that’s what.
We haven’t even factored in Demko’s contract. He’s got two seasons left at a $5 million AAV. That is currently tied for the 14th highest cap hit for NHL goaltenders (with five other goalies), and after a few RFA contracts are signed this summer, it will probably slip even further down the list.
For a team like the Maple Leafs or the Avalanche, the prospect of being able to add Demko at that price for two full campaigns cannot be overstated. It’s the kind of trade that has the potential to turn a contender into an odds-on favourite, and that means that teams would be willing to offer up the kind of returns that don’t usually get offered for netminders. We’re talking multiple first round picks, blue-chip prospects, young blueliners, and the like.
But if those teams could use Demko so badly as to pay that much, why wouldn’t the Canucks just hang on to him? Are they not would-be contenders themselves?
They are. But the Canucks might still consider trading Demko for three key reasons.
First, they could really use a futures-heavy return, particularly if that return included high picks, forward prospects with scoring potential, or defence prospects with top-four upside. The cupboards have been restocked a fair bit by Patrik Allvin and Co., but there’s still plenty of work to be done there, and a trade like this would be a major difference-maker in the future assets department.
Second is the salary cap. The Canucks have a boatload of space currently, but they also have a full crew of free agents to sort out before they even think about actually improving the roster. Trading Demko now and handing the job over to Silovs (presumably re-signed to a multi-year extension worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1 million AAV) and a veteran support backup (more on them in a moment) should result in an extra $4 million or so being available in each of the next two seasons.
That’s enough extra cash to totally wipe out the Oliver Ekman-Larsson buyout penalties. It’s enough to perhaps cover that little extra overpay it might take to keep a Nikita Zadorov or a Dakota Joshua. It’s enough to go shopping for something a little fancier on the UFA market, like maybe a Jake Guentzel.
Thirdly, and most importantly, those other teams don’t really have a Silovs on hand. The Canucks do. Silovs’ performance in the playoffs, and his reputation coming into that as an international hero, is the only reason we’d even consider moving on from Demko.
Silovs is not a perfect prospect or a perfect solution in net. He’s still got some gaps in his game, including that oft-repeated issue with shots from a distance.
But Silovs is also 23, and he’ll continue to grow. Demko was just 24 when he took over for Markstrom in the bubble playoffs, and he inherited the starting position at 25. Goalie development is never linear, and so it wouldn’t be all that strange if Silovs proved ready at a slightly earlier age.
Silovs wouldn’t even have to be as good as Demko for this swap to be a success. He’s just got to continue to be good enough to give the Canucks a chance to win in the playoffs, as he did this year, and as he might be able to do even more effectively behind a better team; a team made better for the assets and cap space accrued through trading Demko.
Remember that lackluster set of 1B/2A goalies we mentioned as the current UFA market? Under this scenario, that list becomes an asset for the Canucks, allowing them to easily acquire someone who can take about 30 starts off Silovs’ hands and cover any extended slumps in his part, all without breaking the bank. Give Silovs someone like Brossoit or Talbot to platoon with, and all of a sudden this starts looking like a much safer solution.
Again, we will admit that this isn’t very likely. And we’ll definitely concede that the best way for the Canucks to continue to contend is probably still to build around their best players, not to sell them off at high-value.
But in this one specific case, we think there might actually be some sand to this idea. Enough, anyway, to justify Allvin and Co. having at least some preliminary discussions with teams like Toronto, New Jersey, and the like to see what they might be willing to put on the table…and whether that’s enough to move from idle wonderings to serious consideration.
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