In between an incredibly entertaining edition of the Battle of Alberta last week that featured one of the rarer and more notable occurrences in the game of hockey—a goalie fight—Sportsnet reporter Chris Johnston dropped some interesting news.
With rumours flying that the Canucks have started negotiations with goalie Jacob Markstrom (who is slated to hit free agency at the end of this season), Johnston reported that the team has offered the goaltender a two-year deal. He did, however, note that the report hadn’t been confirmed yet.
Is this just the Canucks trying to get some news out there? Markstrom’s side has said that they will be keeping the negotiations private, so you have to think this comes from within the organization. As it stands, there doesn’t appear to be a way that the Canucks will be able to get Markstrom’s signature on a two-year extension, even if that would be ideal for the team. Even if that might be ideal.
There’s no doubt the Canucks have had a look around the league at some of the larger goalie contracts that haven’t aged well. Jonathan Quick, for instance, is making $5.8 million against the cap for three seasons after this one, and he’s currently on track to post a save percentage under .900 for the second straight year.
There’s also the recent massive contracts given out to the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky and Carey Price that already look pretty cumbersome.
Markstrom just turned 30 and though there is some historical data that goalies age better than other NHL players, the cautionary tales above prove that it may not be the case anymore.
On Markstrom’s side though, there is no way he will (or should) even consider a two-year deal. The Swede is having the best year of his life, and that’s after being named the team’s MVP by the fans last season.
He’s currently posting a .917 save percentage while keeping the Canucks in game after game, many of which they haven’t deserved to be in, and his underlying numbers are absolutely sparkling.
There’s a case to be made that Markstrom deserves to be considered for the Vezina—only two goalies have played more games than Markstrom and are carrying a higher save percetage. And currently, at $3.66 million, he’s the 27th-highest paid goaltender in the league. That will change, and it will change drastically.
Based on his performance this year and his steady rise over the last couple, Markstrom deserves to be paid like a top 10 goaltender. The bar for that is $6 million a year against the cap. And, as an older player in the league, Markstrom is probably going to want the job security that comes with a longer-term contract.
Of course, that brings in all the Thatcher Demko questions, as the team’s goalie-in-waiting has looked pretty close to ready for full-time duty.
The Canucks are likely (and rightly) a bit about leery about handing over the goaltending job for the next five or six years to a 30-year-old. But that’s the kind of contract Markstrom has played himself into.
It’s not a bad idea for Vancouver to kick the tires on a two-year deal, sure. But there is no chance it happens. Will the team take the plunge on a big contract to try and secure its playoff fortunes for the next couple of years while Demko continues to develop, and then figure out the Markstrom situation later? Maybe.
Add in the fact that the Seattle expansion draft is coming around the corner—and you’d have to assume the Canucks will do everything they can in order to make sure the Kraken (??) don’t get one of their netminders—and general manager Jim Benning has one of the harder decisions in the league on the docket.
A two-year contract would solve some of those problems nicely. But it’s not happening.
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