The Vancouver Canucks have a plan to keep goalie Ryan Miller in the fold, but Eddie Lack and/or Jacob Markstrom are not part of that picture. General manager Jim Benning confirmed the news on Wednesday when he said he was looking to deal Lack or Markstrom.
“I want to keep an older experienced goalie and Ryan is that guy,” Benning said in an interview with TSN 1040 Radio. “Then we are going to decide on either Lack or Markstrom. I don’t feel comfortable going into the season with two young goalies. Ryan for sure will be back.”
It’s not uncommon for the Vancouver Canucks to have a “situation” involving their netminders. In fact, they probably wouldn’t be the Vancouver Canucks without such a conundrum.
The issue now is somewhat intricate. The club has $3.2 million in cap space with 17 players currently under contract. Eight of those 17 are over the age of 30. They are part of that core group Mike Gillis constructed when he was general manager.
The Miller contract was Benning’s deal and it’s worth a cap hit of $6 million. The “age” factor with Miller is also an issue, as the list of teams interested in a 34-year-old goalie worth the kind of money he’s asking for is bound to be slim.
Lack may be a team and fan favourite, but he’s also likely the most desired goalie Vancouver has. He went 18-13-14 last season with a 2.45 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. Lack provided good cover in Miller’s absence and that goes a long way. He could be Vancouver’s best option for receiving some sort of return on investment.
As for Markstrom, he’s a harder sell. He’s been impressive in the AHL, but he’s struggled to make that transition to the big leagues. He went 22-7-2 during the regular season with the Utica Comets and helped the club reach the Calder Cup Finals. Benning says he’s NHL-ready, which could indicate that he wants to give him a shot.
“[Markstrom] is ready to be an NHL goalie now,” Benning said. “He worked with [Canucks goaltending consultant] Dan Cloutier all year and Dan helped him tighten up his game, and of the 11 or 12 [playoff] games they won, I think nine of them went to overtime. They were all close games and [Markstrom] was under the gun every game to be good and he was good.”
Either Lack or Markstrom will be the odd man out when the 2015-2016 season gets underway. Benning will push for the better deal, which could mean we see activity ahead of the draft. The Canucks have some chips to play here and could pull off a decent deal. Or they could continue business as usual, carrying on their trend of “goaltender controversies” well into the next year.