The Canucks didn't make any major moves at the NHL trade deadline, but their one minor move has major implications.
General manager Jim Benning snuck one deal in under the deadline, acquiring goaltender Louis Domingue from the New Jersey Devils, with Utica Comets goaltender Zane McIntyre going the other way. Since goaltending was the furthest thing from the minds of Canucks fans heading into the deadline, it seemed like an odd move.
According to Patrick Johnston of The Province, however, the move was made in response to a potential injury for Jacob Markstrom. Johnston cited sources that say Markstrom had an MRI in Montreal on his knee and will miss some time.
Source tells me Canucks trading for Louis Domingue is because of concerns over a knee problem for Jacob Markstromhttps://t.co/YaMy8VC7MH— Patrick Johnston (@risingaction) February 24, 2020
That's potentially devastating news for the Canucks, who have heavily leaned on Markstrom this season, to the point that he wasn't just getting buzz for the Vezina trophy as the NHL's best goaltender, but the Hart as the MVP.
TSN 1040 radio hosts Don Taylor and Bob "The Moj" Marjonovich are reporting that Markstrom could be out 3-4 weeks.
Donnie and the Moj hearing Markstrom could be out anywhere from 3-4 weeks with knee injury.#TSN1040— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) February 24, 2020
After the deadline passed, Canucks general manager Jim Benning confirmed that Markstrom had an MRI and is flying back to Vancouver.
"Marky got hurt the other night in the Boston game," said Benning. "It's a lower-body injury. He woke up the next day, felt okay, flew to Montreal. He went and did an MRI this morning. He's flying back tomorrow, going to meet with our doctors Wednesday morning and we'll have a better timeline after that."
From experience, symptoms for a meniscus injury can take time to show up as swelling grows over time. There are rumours that Markstrom has a meniscus tear, which would make sense for a 3-4 week timeline. If Markstrom misses a significant amount of time, Thatcher Demko will need to be on top of his game for the Canucks to compete for the playoffs.
"Our team has confidence in [Demko]," said Benning. "This is an opportunity for him to step in and play like he's played for us all year. It's not a perfect situation, but it is what it is, and it's going to be a great opportunity for Thatcher."
While Demko has been good for the Canucks this season, he hasn't been at the same level of Markstrom. With the Canucks giving up a lot of dangerous scoring chances, Markstrom has consistently bailed out his teammates with some stunning saves. Demko will be hard-pressed to match Markstrom, so the key for the Canucks will be improving their defensive structure in front of him.
"I think we've shown stretches this year where we've played with real good structure and we limit the Grade-A scoring chances," said Benning. "That's probably what Travis [Green] is going to talk with the team about is we've gotta make sure that we continue to play with structure and the second-chance shots and rebounds, that we clear the front of the net. I'm sure that Travis is going to continue to harp on the players about that."
Domingue will join the Canucks in Montreal to back up Demko, while Jake Kielly will presumably get called up from the ECHL to join the Utica Comets and back up Michael DiPietro.
While, Domingue has been a below-league-average goaltender at the NHL level over the course of his career, he at least has significant NHL experience, with 138 games played at the NHL level. That trumps McIntyre's 8 games of NHL experience and provides a safety net for the Canucks that should keep DiPietro starting for the Comets in the AHL.
Just in case a slew of injuries crash down on the Canucks goaltenders all at once, the Canucks also have veteran Richard Bachman, who was recently loaned to IK Oskarshamn of the SHL.
"We can recall Richard at any time," said Benning. "Mike DiPietro has had an excellent year for us down there, but he's a first-year goalie. We could have recalled him now, but we just felt like we wanted to continue to let him play and develop and that's why we decided to try to get a more experienced third goalie."
According to Benning, he reached out to Ian Clark, the Canucks goaltending coach, and asked him to prepare a list of goaltenders. From that list, Benning made calls and worked out what would make the most sense for the Canucks in terms of price and situation.
"He was one of the guys that was kind of at the top of our list," said Benning. "We just felt like he is a player with experience that can come in and help support Thatcher and he can play games for us and be competitive if we need him."
One benefit to Domingue is that he was already in the AHL after clearing waivers earlier this week. That means the Canucks can use an emergency recall on Domingue, extending the amount of games he can play in the NHL without having to clear waivers again when he returns to the AHL.
For Markstrom, there will be more clarity on the length of his injury after he sees the Canucks' doctors on Wednesday. The most important thing for the Canucks is that he is 100% healthy heading into the playoffs, but they also can't afford to fall out of the playoffs while he's out of the lineup.