If the Vancouver Canucks lose one of their two goalies in the offseason, Jaroslav Halak of the Boston Bruins may be worth pursuing in free agency.
With the 2019-20 NHL campaign on pause, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has plenty of time to plan out his moves for the offseason.
Benning’s first order of business is to figure out what he will do with goalie Jacob Markstrom. The 30-year-old is slated to hit free agency, and he’s been Vancouver’s most valuable player over the past two years.
Thatcher Demko has long been viewed as “the goalie of the future.” But he has struggled with consistency this season, and Vancouver has a top goalie top prospect in Michael DiPietro. This city won’t be big enough for those two and/or Markstrom.
If the Canucks were to lose Markstrom in free agency, they would need to find a veteran backup on a short-term deal. If Vancouver were to retain Markstrom and opt to trade Demko (rather than possibly expose him at the 2021 Seattle expansion draft), it would still be nice to have some quality insurance in goal.
We’ve seen this team struggle mightily without Markstrom, after all.
While Rask is receiving consideration in the Vezina Trophy race, Halak is being widely overlooked. He’s 18-6-6 this season with a 2.39 goals against average and a .919 save percentage with three shutouts. He was even better last year, going 22-11-4 with a 2.34 goals against average, .922 save percentage and five shutouts.
Given his age (35 in May) and status as a backup, Halak shouldn’t cost much as a free agent. Other teams will be busy in bidding wars for starting goalies. This year’s free agent class could include Markstrom, Braden Holtby, Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss. Halak will come in considerably cheaper than the first three, and likely Greiss as well.
The guess is that Halak would settle on a one or two-year deal, and he shouldn’t cost more than around $2.5 million annually. Given his recent track record, that would be a very fair price for the cap-strapped Canucks.
Halak has 520 games (484 starts) of NHL experience. Simply put, he’s as good as they come for a backup goalie. The Canucks would not find many better options if Markstrom or Demko suited up elsewhere next season.
If Benning manages to keep the same goaltending duo for next year, then disregard what I said above. Otherwise, the Canucks should be eyeing Halak in free agency to support either Markstrom or Demko in 2020-21, because he brings everything you want in a No. 2 netminder