Everyone knows the Canucks need to re-sign Jacob Markstrom. What this article presupposes is...maybe they don’t?
There’s no denying how good Markstrom was last season and he’s been the team’s MVP for two straight seasons. He certainly deserves a hefty raise from his $3.67 million deal, perhaps as high as $6-6.5 million on a 4-5 year contract. The question is whether the Canucks can afford to make that deal with their current cap situation or if another team desperate for a number one goaltender will lure him away.
Markstrom has given every indication that he wants to stay in Vancouver and the Canucks definitely want him back. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic that Markstrom will be back with the Canucks next season, but reports indicate the Canucks have a “walk away” number in mind and Markstrom and his agent likely have a hard line that they won’t cross either in negotiations. If those numbers don’t overlap, there’s a possibility that a deal doesn’t get done.
With that in mind, let’s consider some alternatives for the Canucks, because, as good as Markstrom has been, they do have some other options. Here are nine of them.
1 | Sign — or trade for — a veteran number one
There are other top goaltenders available in free agency beyond Markstrom, though only two that would make sense as a true number one goaltender.
Corey Crawford has been fantastic behind some pretty awful teams in Chicago and could see the Canucks as a good opportunity to push for one more Stanley Cup.
Anton Khudobin just proved that he can carry a team to the Stanley Cup Final and he’s quietly been one of the best goaltenders in the league over the past few seasons. The Dallas Stars want to bring him back, but they might not be able to make the numbers work.
Alternatively, the Canucks could look to make a trade, perhaps for someone like Antti Raanta out of Arizona. With Darcy Kuemper holding down the number one job (when he’s healthy), the Coyotes could try to recoup some assets by trading Raanta, who could thrive as a full-time starter.
2 | Platoon Thatcher Demko with a veteran 1B
Thatcher Demko has shown the ability to steal games, but he’s still entirely untested as a starting goaltender. To that end, the Canucks could acquire a veteran to split starts with Demko.
Henrik Lundqvist, recently bought out by the New York Rangers, is a possibility in this role and he could be amenable to a short-term contract. Thomas Greiss and Cam Talbot could fit this role as well, playing in similar situations with the New York Islanders and Calgary Flames.
3 | Hand the reins to Demko with a veteran backup
Perhaps the Canucks believe the future is now and that Demko is ready to be a starting goaltender. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to have a veteran backup as an insurance policy.
Free agent goaltenders that could fit as a backup include Aaron Dell, Louis Domingue, or even an older player like Ryan Miller, Craig Anderson, or Mike Smith.
4 | Go young, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead
It’s unlikely, but the Canucks could just embrace chaos and turn the net over to the kids. Demko could start with Michael DiPietro backing him up.
The upshot is the Canucks would save a bunch of money on their goaltending that they could then spend elsewhere, perhaps by upgrading the defence. And they would probably really need to upgrade their defence in this situation.
Is this a likely option? No, but it would be a potentially entertaining one.
5 | Just leave the net empty
The Canucks were fantastic with the man advantage last season, out-scoring their opponents 56-to-4 while skating with an extra man. Just imagine how much they’d out-score their opponents if they had an extra skater on the ice for the entire game.
Think about it.
6 | EBUG every game
This past season, the hockey world was captivated by the story of David Ayres, the 42-year-old Zamboni driver and emergency backup goaltender (EBUG) who was forced to step into action for the Carolina Hurricanes against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Against all odds, Ayres stopped 8 of 10 shots to secure the win for the Hurricanes.
Now, imagine that story happening every single game.
Every game a new inspirational story of a long-time janitor/equipment manager/high school teacher/baby formula taste tester, who never got a shot at playing in the big leagues, but steps onto the ice for just one game, shocking everyone with an incredible performance and inspiring the team to play their hearts out in front of him.
It would be beautiful.
7 | Put Ian Clark in net
Ian Clark is an amazing goaltending coach that has been a real difference maker in the career of Markstrom. Just imagine how good Clark must be as a goaltender to be able to coach so well.
Sure, Clark is 54 and the last time he played was in 1984 for the Penticton Knights in the BCJHL, but that just means he’s well rested.
8 | Alex Edler, starting goaltender
Everyone knows that what Alex Edler really wants to be is a goaltender. We’ve all seen him selling out to make saves with just his shinpads and hockey gloves. Strap some proper goalie equipment on Edler and let him live his dream. Let him be the goaltender he’s always wanted to be.
9 | A tall goaltender that might just be two kids in a trench coat
While a few smaller goaltenders have found a way to survive and thrive in the NHL, the truth is that the league still belongs to tall goaltenders. Just three goaltenders under 6’0” played even a single game last season and more than 1/4 of all goaltenders were at least 6’4”.
When it comes to height, the latest free agent the Canucks have looked into fits the bill perfectly. He’s quite tall, even if he is quite slim and never seems to take off his trenchcoat and fedora. Sometimes, he makes saves as if he has an extra set of limbs.
It’s entirely possible that he’s just two kids in a trenchcoat pretending to be a full-grown adult, but if not, he’s worth a gamble.