Vancouver Canucks prospect goalie Thatcher Demko could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2017.
The Vancouver Canucks have one of the best goalie prospects in all of hockey — Boston College’s Thatcher Demko. And there is a loophole in the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that would allow Demko to pick his NHL destination despite being drafted 36th overall by the Canucks in 2013.
For junior players, being drafted and signing with their NHL club is easy. They can sign their entry-level deal whenever and either continue to play in their respective junior league or join the pros. For college players, however, things are different.
As an 18-year-old hockey player, you don’t always know what will be in the next years, and you most certainly don’t know what will be once you retire. While that moment is usually about 15 years away for guys that become full-time professional hockey players, it is something worth considering early. If you end up being a career AHL player, for example, you might have a nice $90,000 salary for 15 years, but once you retire, you have no salary, no job and no post-secondary education.
So, when a player decides to go the college route, he probably wants to graduate and have a college degree before escaping into the wild world that is professional hockey. Unfortunately, players are ineligible to play in the NCAA the second they sign a professional contract, which bodes problems for NHL clubs since they don’t hold prospects’ rights forever.
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The CBA loophole that allows college seniors to become unrestricted free agents following their senior year is therefore a legitimate concern. Defencemen Justin Schultz (Edmonton Oilers) and Mike Reilly (Minnesota Wild) are the most recent examples.
A look at the rulebook — nicely broken down by Lighthouse Hockey — shows that Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko could become a UFA as of August 15th, 2017.
In the midst of a terrible Canucks season, that would probably be the worst news of the year. Now 28 games into the season, Demko sits at a .935 save percentage along with a 1.8 goals-against average. Furthermore, he recorded nine (!) shutouts, breaking former Canucks goalie Corey Schneider’s Boston College record.
There is no one who can say more about Demko’s current situation than Demko himself. Today, he opened up to TSN 1040 and talked about his future plans. What he said probably did not calm Canucks fans down, but it also shouldn’t worry anyone.
“My plan is to win a championship right now with Boston College,” the 20-year-old said. He added that he has not had any contract talks with the Canucks yet and he is not thinking about negotiations right now. However, he expects to talk to the Canucks in the off-season and “see where they are at.”
Yes, there might be a chance that Demko gets signed in this off-season. The sooner he joins the organization, the better it is for the Canucks. But what happens if he waits?
If Demko decides to play his fourth year of NCAA hockey, the Canucks will still have until August 5th, 2017 to get him under contract. That may sound like little time, but it will be long after the NHL free-agency madness is over.
Furthermore, and most importantly, Canucks representatives have always said there seems to be no sign of difficulties to get Demko locked up. He likes the organization and he wants to play there.
So, fans, don’t get worried just yet. If Demko wins his championship this season, he might feel ready to sign his professional contract and leave college. If not, he might want to try again next season and sign with the Canucks afterwards. Either way, it looks like Vancouver is Demko’s destination — and the Canucks desperately need him.
Ryan Miller is steadily declining and a goalie tandem of Demko and Jacob Markstrom would be outstanding for the franchise. Miller’s contract is set to expire in 2017, so giving Demko some pro experience prior to that would be the best-case scenario.
Either way, it is unlikely for Demko to jump right into the NHL, so the Canucks will need to find someone to back up Markstrom starting 2017. Regardless of what happens with the Demko situation.
All that aside, the top priority should be to get Demko signed — now or in 2017. And, if we believe everything we have heard, Vancouver’s chances are more than good.
When do you expect Demko to sign with the Canucks? Let us know in the comments!