Are the Colorado Avalanche the perfect team to help the Canucks out with their ‘too many goalies’ problem?
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
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Has another goaltending controversy reared its ugly head in Vancouver?
Yeah, not really. And if it has, it’s one with not that ugly of a head.
No one is questioning Thatcher Demko’s place as the starting goaltender of the Canucks. There were some lingering questions thereof at the outset of last season, but they’ve been neatly laid to rest.
And everyone is pretty certain that the newly-acquired Casey DeSmith will be Demko’s big league backup, primarily because he was brought into the organization for expressly that purpose.
The issue, as far as it exists, lies further down on the depth chart.
The Canucks have four additional goaltenders signed to NHL contracts.
The most talented and most important of the bunch is undoubtedly Arturs Silovs, the 22-year-old who keeps rising up the ranks of worldwide goaltending prospects. Entering his third professional North American season, the aim has to be for Silovs to get as many starts in Abbotsford as possible.
Next in line is probably the 23-year-old Nikita Tolopilo, an undrafted free agent signed to an entry-level contract back in March. Tolopilo looked good in Penticton, and has probably both come over a little earlier and shown a little better than some expected. In an ideal world, he’s getting plenty of action, too, and at as high a level as possible. Whether that translates to backing up Silovs in Abbotsford or taking the starting position in Kalamazoo remains to be seen.
Then there’s Zach Sawchenko, a 25-year-old UFA signing and veteran of three partial AHL seasons (and seven NHL games). Ostensibly, Sawchenko was signed with the idea of having him platoon with Silovs in Abbotsford, and that still might be the case. However, Sawchenko could easily lose his spot to Tolopilo, which would result in him either heading down to the ECHL or perhaps being loaned out to another AHL squad, like the now-independent Chicago Wolves, whom he skated for last year.
Which brings us to Spencer Martin. Prior to the DeSmith trade, Martin was Demko’s assumed backup, pretty much just on seniority alone. That said, he was also essentially the worst goalie in the NHL last season, statistically-speaking, and few had confidence in his ability to take all that many starts.
Truly, DeSmith has been brought in to replace Martin. Usually, in these situations, the goalies are simply swapped for one another, but the Montreal Canadiens were already loaded up with netminders of their own, and they didn’t have room for Martin, either.
So, where does that leave him?
Two of the three of Silovs, Tolopilo, and Sawchenko will be playing in the AHL, and the third should be starting in Kalamazoo. Does that put Martin all the way down the depth chart in the “ECHL backup” slot? Or, arguably worse, does that have him stealing starts from the prospects in both Abbotsford and Kalamazoo?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Enter the Colorado Avalanche.
In a piece of news that shocked absolutely no one, Avalanche backup Pavel Francouz is injured to start the season and will potentially miss several months of action for Colorado. As such, they’re looking for a temporary replacement to back up Alexandar Georgiev.
Now, given Martin’s performance last season, why would the Avalanche want him over literally any other option? Jaroslav Halak is still a UFA, and there are enough teams with three NHL-quality goalies out there that better options are almost guaranteed to hit the waiver wire, like Dan Vladar, Eric Comrie, Alex Lyon, and Martin Jones.
And yet, it is not any of those names that has come up in connection with the Avalanche. It’s Martin, and it comes from no less a source than Elliotte Friedman.
Even if it’s sometimes tough to tell where Friedman’s rumour-mongering ends and his outright speculation begins, this is a theory that makes a surprising amount of sense.
The Avalanche don’t really want a new backup. When he’s healthy, Francouz is still one of the best in the business. They want someone who is capable of filling in for a short amount of time and performing adequately, and then getting out of the way. That’s pretty much Martin’s whole thing, and the only situation in which he’s ever experienced success at the NHL level.
There’s also the topic of salary. The Avalanche are one of the few teams with even less cap space available to them than the Canucks. They’re way over the limit as it stands, and will still be pretty tight even with captain Gabriel Landeskog on long-term IR. They need all the savings they can get, and Martin conveniently comes with a cap hit of $762,500, which is actually lower than the new 2023/24 minimum salary of $775,000. Aside from some dude named Jet Greaves in the Columbus Blue Jackets system, Martin is literally the cheapest goalie that the Avalanche could acquire. They couldn’t even sign someone for as cheap as Martin is already signed. It would be an illegal contract.
That’s an appealing factor, especially if the Avs believe that he can play more like 2021/22 Martin than last season’s edition.
What would the Avalanche offer up for Martin, if they were truly interested? Not much. This falls well within the territory of a mutual favour, and seems like the perfect situation for future considerations to change hand. At most, the Avs might insist on sending back a non-goalie minor league contract of their own, and maybe the Canucks pick up a seventh round pick in that scenario. Either way, the cost is not really the point. It’s the clearing out of Martin so that the Canucks’ own depth chart can thrive.
What happens to Martin when Francouz is healthy? Well, first and foremost, “Francouz healthy” is always more of an ‘if’ than a ‘when.’
Secondly, the Avalanche simply have more room within their organization to stash Martin somewhere. They’ve got one notable prospect under contract in Justus Annunen, who should get plenty of starts with the Colorado Eagles. Martin fits in nicely as his eventual veteran backup, as well as someone the Avs can call up to sit on the bench instead of Annunen.
Really, this is a pretty small-stakes discussion, and it’s hard to believe we’ve committed more than 1,000 words to Spencer Martin speculation, but damned if this doesn’t just make a lot of sense.
And if such a transaction does go down, just remember where you heard it first (or second, technically): CanucksArmy.com!
Oh, and does knowing that Spencer Martin isn’t part of either main group on day three of training camp change anything for you?
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