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How Casey DeSmith changes the Canucks’ goalie plans behind Thatcher Demko

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Photo credit:© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
8 months ago
As Tanner Pearson moves on to the greener pastures of Montreal, a new goaltender will be taking his stall at training cap.
Casey DeSmith arrives in Vancouver having been part of his second trade in just over a month, after the Canadiens acquired him from the Pittsburgh Penguins on August 6. Unloading the last season of Tanner Pearson’s contract was the main prize of the trade, but DeSmith is Mr. Burns’ mystery box. What the Canucks are getting in the 32-year-old netminder is anybody’s guess.
But we’re sure going to try and solve that today.
DeSmith has spent the last eight seasons in the Penguins system, bouncing between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre Scranton in the AHL. As the de facto backup to Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry, DeSmith has 134 NHL games across five years under his belt, and has never finished with a sub .900 save percentage in that time.

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However, DeSmith is coming off a rough 2022-23, starting a career-high 33 games and finishing with a 15-16-4 record and a career-low .905 save percentage. Much like the Canucks, the Penguins were forced to find solutions when Tristan Jarry missed chunks of time due to injury, and DeSmith struggled adjusting to the increased workload. The American-born goalie also played seven games at the 2023 IIHF World Championships last spring for Team USA.
DeSmith is meant to provide the kind of backup insurance that Collin Delia did last season, or more accurately, Spencer Martin was meant to. Martin is still here, unlike Delia, but his stock has clearly taken a dip after last season and he’s likely starting the season in Abbotsford.
That leaves the Canucks with a bit of a logjam in the goaltending department. Beyond Demko, DeSmith, and Martin, there’s also Arturs Silovs, Zach Sawchenko, and Nikita Tolopilo to find ice time for.
While six goalies seems like a high number, that number will likely come down before the season starts. The Canucks might try and flip DeSmith elsewhere before the season or put him on waivers, but both of those seem unlikely considering the price they paid just to get him.
More likely, the team is planning to move on from Martin either through waivers or a trade once he clears to the AHL. Otherwise there’s definitely not going to be enough net to go around, and prospects like Silovs and Tolopilo are definitely going to be prioritized by Jeremy Colliton and Ryan Johnston.
The Canucks are obviously banking on Demko to play the bulk of the games, but if DeSmith can give the team a quality number of starts, it’ll help preserve their number one goalie down the stretch of the postseason. Getting him into around 25-30 games should be enough for DeSmith to stay fresh while Demko gets the right amount of rest.
In a backup role, DeSmith has shown he can hold down the fort as long as he’s getting ample time between starts. But the Penguins club he’s spent his whole career playing for has been a perennial playoff team with much deeper rosters than the Canucks have had. Like Martin and Delia before him, asking DeSmith to carry the Canucks to wins the way Demko can is probably asking too much.

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