Canucks will have plenty of options if Jacob Markstrom leaves


If Jacob Markstrom leaves in free agency, the Vancouver Canucks will have plenty of options in regards to finding a replacement.

Jacob Markstrom was arguably the MVP of the Vancouver Canucks during the 2019-20 regular season, and he deserves to be paid like it.

Markstrom is a pending UFA, but the 30-year-old goalie has expressed his desire to stay in Vancouver. But general manager Jim Benning is up against the cap, and he has a quality backup in Thatcher Demko, so Markstrom’s long-term future in Vancouver is far from a certainty.

Last week, Rick Dhaliwal of TSN 1040 reported that Markstrom will not “accept less than” $6 million annually. Dhaliwal added that the two sides haven’t agreed to a new deal because Vancouver “can’t get to” that $6 million mark.

Benning also has to try to re-sign Chris Tanev (a pending UFA) and pending RFAs Troy StecherAdam Gaudette and Jake Virtanen. So if the Vancouver GM decides against committing $6 million annually to Markstrom, he shouldn’t be blamed too much. You can only invest so much in a goalie in his 30s.

And if Markstrom leaves in free agency, Canucks fans shouldn’t panic too much. Even if you’re not sold on Demko as a future No. 1, Benning will have plenty of options this offseason.

This is a strong free agent class for goalies. Washington Capitals All-Star and 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby headlines the class. He’ll likely hit the open market now that Washington can move forward with the younger and cheaper Ilya Samsonov.

If not Holtby, the Canucks could also target veteran netminder Robin Lehner — who’s just a year removed from a Vezina Trophy nomination. Lehner went 19-10-5 in the regular season (with the Chicago Blackhawks and Vegas Golden Knights) with a superb .920 save percentage.

Another choice would be for Benning to find a veteran and backup to help carry the load with Demko. Anton Khudobin, Corey Crawford and Thomas Greiss are among possible options here.

Otherwise, Benning should shift his focus to the trade market. The Pittsburgh Penguins could look to move out either two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray or 25-year-old Tristan Jarry, since they won’t be able to protect both in next year’s Seattle expansion draft.

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Losing Markstrom wouldn’t be ideal by any means. But it’s not as though Vancouver will be short of options if they have to replace him. Be it trade, free agency or simply handing the reigns over to Demko, the Canucks will have lots of possibilities to choose from.