For a brief period of time, Spencer Martin was a revelation. Now his time with the Canucks may be finished.
When he came to the Vancouver Canucks in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Martin was an AHL journeyman, who had even spent time in the ECHL just two seasons prior. In two of his previous three seasons in the AHL, he had a save percentage below .900. Working with Canucks goaltending coaches Ian Clark and Curtis Sanford, however, seemed to transform his game and he became the number one goaltender with the Abbotsford Canucks.
What was more impressive was his performance in the NHL. Pressed into action with both Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak in COVID protocol, Martin was incredible. In six games, Martin posted a .950 save percentage and was undefeated in regulation.
That was enough to earn him a new, two-year deal with the Canucks and a job as Demko's backup in the 2022-23 season.
Martin started that season the same way he performed in the previous season. He was undefeated in regulation in his first four starts and was 6-1-1 in his first eight starts. It seemed like the Canucks had found a reliable backup goaltender out of nowhere and he was a jewel in the crown of Clark's coaching record.
Then Demko got injured, Martin was pressed into the starter's job, and everything went off the rails.
Martin lost 10 straight games for the Canucks and was sent back down to the AHL. He finished the season with a disastrous .871 save percentage — the lowest in the NHL among goaltenders with at least ten starts.
While Martin recovered his game in the AHL and had a strong performance in the playoffs for Abbotsford, it was clear that the Canucks weren't comfortable with the idea of him being Demko's backup in the NHL again. That's a big reason why they traded for a veteran backup with more NHL experience in Casey DeSmith.
The Canucks reportedly tried to trade Martin but couldn't find any takers, which isn't too surprising given his performance last season. So, instead, they placed Martin on waivers.
There's a possibility that Martin will get claimed by a team looking for some goaltending depth. More likely, he clears waivers and the Canucks subsequently trade him, making it so that the team acquiring him does not need to waive him to send him to the AHL.
The simple fact is that the Canucks have a traffic jam of goaltenders in their system.
Demko and DeSmith will obviously be the Canucks' tandem in the NHL, but after those two, the Canucks have prospects Arturs Silovs and Nikita Tolopilo, both of whom they want to get as many starts as possible to further their development. Then there's AHL journeyman Zach Sawchenko, who will likely back up Silovs in Abbotsford, while Tolopilo plays in the ECHL.
But wait, there's more. The Abbotsford Canucks also have Marco Costantini signed to an AHL deal. If Martin clears waivers, that's a total of five goaltenders in the AHL and only so many can be sent down to the ECHL.
In other words, there's no room for Martin. In all likelihood, his time with the Vancouver Canucks, where he revitalized his career, is over.