One of the last things Peter Chiarelli did as Edmonton Oilers general manager is bound to live in infamy, which is saying a lot, considering that many of his moves were instantly regrettable.
But the decision to sign Mikko Koskinen to a three-year $13.5 million deal two days before he was fired (!!) will have repercussions for years to come, and not just for the stuffed-to-the-salary-cap-brim Oilers.
No, in a league with 31 (soon to be 32) starting goaltender jobs, every contract that is signed by a netminder is especially important and put under a microscope.
So it is that Koskinen’s deal may very well end up being a troublesome one for the Vancouver Canucks. Of the recent contracts handed out to goaltenders, Koskinen’s is the one that will likely be used as a (very) favourable comparable by Jacob Markstrom’s agent.
Signed on Jan 21, 2019, Koskinen’s $4.5 million average against the cap is the fifth-highest number since that date.
The others signed since don’t really project to be Markstrom comparables.
Andrei Vasilivesky signed a massive eight year, $76 million extension, while Sergei Bobrovsky, Robin Lehner and Simeon Varlamov all hit it relatively big in unrestricted free agency.
And then there was Koskinen, who signed that deal at age 30 in the middle of last season. At the time, he had a 2.78 goals against average, .911 save percentage, three shutouts and a 14-10-1 record in 27 games. Before last season, he had played four games in the NHL with the New York Islanders. In 2010-11.
At the time of the signing, Chiarelli said that Koskinen “has a lot of experience as a No.1 goalie.” Of course, he meant in the KHL, where he had spent the five previous seasons. Oh, and Chiarelli gave him a 15-team no-trade clause (seriously).
Even at the time, it was a brutal deal for an inexperienced ‘tender and completely inflated the market. And, after just a few months of hindsight, it's even worse.
Koskinen’s full-season numbers? 25-21-6 with a .293 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. Not good.
For the record, Markstrom posted a 28-23-9 record last season (at the age of 29), with a 2.77 goals against average and a .912 save percentage, eerily close to the numbers that got Koskinen the deal he received.
But Markstrom also has much more of a track record as an NHL goaltender. And his high-danger save percentage behind a bad Canucks team was more indicative of how well he played last season than anything else.
If he keeps it up (a decently big if, yes), he’ll definitely want a sizeable raise in his next contract (he’s currently making $3.6 million against the cap. And it will no doubt be for more years than the three Koskinen got.
That, of course, will open up all kinds of questions about whether re-signing Markstrom will even be the best course of action for the Canucks, as Thatcher Demko tries to take over the crease this year.
But if the Canucks’ goal is to make the playoffs, keeping Markstrom in the fold beyond next season will probably be important.
There are some other decent comparables for Markstrom, of course. Some, like Antii Rantaa and his three-year, $4.25-million pact might help general manager Jim Benning get the price down. But that was signed in 2018, and the cap will almost definitely go up next offseason. Factor in that Raanta had an injury-plagued and ineffective 2018-19, and Markstrom’s camp will probably make the argument that their client is worth more.
And then there’s Varlamov, who signed with the New York Islanders for four years at $5 million a season. The 31-year-old is coming off a pretty rough 2018-19, though he has had a lot of success in the past.
Put it all together and it’s extremely unlikely that Markstrom settles for anything that doesn’t start with a five in terms of average salary. And, since he’s turning 30 in January, he’ll also probably be looking for a long-term commitment.
As much as the Canucks would probably love to write off the Koskinen deal as one of those Crazy Chiarelli Things™, it’s impossible to deny that it'll be a hurdle when (and if) the team decides to negotiate with Markstrom.
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