Jacob Markstrom is the Vancouver Canucks’ No. 1 goalie, but Thatcher Demko’s stellar play is making the goaltending situation even more complex.
Markstrom has been playing at a Vezina-like level throughout most of the season, with an 18-13-3 record to go along with a 2.71 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. He is the undisputed No. 1 netminder in Vancouver, but Demko is building up a strong case of his own to be the starter.
Demko put on perhaps the finest outing of his young NHL career in Monday’s 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. He turned aside 36 shots against the defending Stanley Cup champions, making a handful of highlight reel saves in the third period to secure the victory.
With the win, Demko is now up to 10-5-1 on the season with a 2.93 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. Those stats would be even better if you excluded the seven goals he surrendered against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 29.
As TSN’s Jason Brough pointed out, the 24-year-old Demko has been extremely consistent throughout most of the season.
Having two quality goalies is obviously a great problem to endure. But Markstrom — who turns 30 on Friday — is slated to hit free agency this summer. The Seattle expansion draft is just a year away, and teams can only protect one goalie.
With Vancouver sitting atop the Pacific Division, there’s no way general manager Jim Benning would think about trading Markstrom at the deadline. But he also risks losing the veteran netminder for nothing in free agency.
Would Markstrom take a one-year deal this summer — which would allow the Canucks to protect Demko — then re-up after the expansion draft in order to help Benning keep both goalies? That’s obviously the best case scenario for Vancouver, but Markstrom might want a long-term deal as soon as possible. And he more than deserves it.
But the Canucks shouldn’t be overlooking Demko’s stellar play here in 2019-20. He’s long been hyped as the “goalie of the future,” and Demko is living up to it in every way.
If Markstrom were to test free agency, the Canucks would at least be able to breathe in knowing that they have a capable No. 1 in Demko. But are they truly willing to let Markstrom go, even though he’s getting better with each passing year?
The Canucks have some difficult decisions to make in the crease between now and the expansion draft. The situation has become increasingly complicated because of Demko’s remarkable play this season, and there aren’t any easy answers.