Canucks: What would be a fair deal for Jacob Markstrom?


The Vancouver Canucks and Jacob Markstrom have yet to reach a contract extension. What would a fair deal look like to keep him on the west coast?

Vancouver Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom is getting better with age, and the pending UFA is more than deserving of the first long-term deal of his career.

The 30-year-old Markstrom is a pending unrestricted free agent. With goalie of the future Thatcher Demko waiting behind him, general manager Jim Benning has been forced into making a difficult decision.

Next year’s Seattle expansion draft further complicates things for the Canucks. Benning would likely have to pay a very hefty price in exchange for the 32nd NHL franchise agreeing not to take one of the two Vancouver goalies.

But even then, Markstrom will be 31 years of age at the time of next year’s draft. There have been too many recent cases of teams regretfully handing out long-term deals to goalies in their 30s (see Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky, etc).

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The best case scenario for the Canucks would be if Markstrom signed a one-year deal, then wait until after the expansion draft to re-sign with Vancouver. But it’s understandable if Markstrom doesn’t want to go that route. An injury or a down season could cost him millions in 2021 free agency.

It’s very hard to envision Markstrom taking a one or two-year deal. Keep in mind that he’ll want to be the starter wherever he goes, rather than possibly split the duties with Demko down the road.

Taking into account his recent performance and his age, the Canucks should be comfortable enough to do four years, but no more. And unless Vancouver is certain that they want Demko to be the long-term answer in the crease, Benning might want to explore his value on the trade market.

The Canucks are up against the cap, so even if term isn’t an issue in negotiations with Markstrom, they still have to be careful not to overpay. There are 10 goalies who carry cap hits of $6 million-plus this year, according to CapFriendly. If I’m Benning, I wouldn’t go more than $5.5 million AAV.

Benning can point out that the Winnipeg Jets handed All-Star goalie Connor Hellebuyck a six-year extension worth $37 million, when the latter was only 25 years of age. Markstrom is 30, not 25, so he shouldn’t expect to match or top Hellebuyck’s AAV.

Coming off a Vezina Trophy nomination with the New York Islanders last year, Robin Lehner settled on a one-year, $5 million pact with the Chicago Blackhawks. Lehner has performed nicely with his new team, and he figures to land a lucrative multi-year deal in free agency.

After leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2016, Matt Murray signed a modest three-year pact worth $11.25 million. His contract is up this year, and the Pens or somebody else will happily give the pending RFA a long-term deal.

So if he hasn’t already, Benning should point out to Markstrom that the goalie market isn’t always so strong, at least from an AAV standpoint. And that’s why his final offer should be a three to four-year pact worth no more than $5.5 million a season.

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If that’s not enough for Markstrom and his agent, the Canucks may have no choice but to let him leave, thus saving significant cap space while hoping that Demko can succeed as the No. 1 goalie.