Should the Canucks target goalie Henrik Lundqvist?

Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks may need a veteran goalie if Jacob Markstrom leaves. Should they target Henrik Lundqvist?

NHL free agency begins on Oct. 9, and Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has yet to make a final decision on goalie Jacob Markstrom.

The 30-year-old Markstrom was instrumental in helping Vancouver end a five-year playoff drought in 2019-20. But his age has to be a concern to Benning, considering how many big-named and expensive goalies tend to regress once they’re on the wrong side of 30.

Take the case of Henrik Lundqvist, the longtime face of the New York Rangers.

On Tuesday, the Rangers announced that they had bought out the final season of Lundqvist”s contract, sending the 38-year-old to free agency.

This move was expected for a while, because Lundqvist has regressed noticeably over the past four years. He’s no longer a starting-caliber goalie, but the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner could offer plenty of value as a backup.

If the Canucks don’t end up retaining Markstrom, they’ll have two options. Either find a capable veteran starters (I explained last week why Marc-Andre Fleury would make sense for Vancouver), or add a veteran backup to complement Thatcher Demko.

So if Benning decides to make Demko his starter, should he target Lundqvist to be the backup?

Again, Lundqvist’s stats dating back to 2016-17 have left a lot to be desired. That’s when you consider his Hall of Fame resume and (previously) expensive contract.

Lundqvist’s save percentage in 2019-20 was .905, the worst of his career. That isn’t disastrous by any means, although the 3.16 goals against average is cause for concern.

Of course, Lundqvist was playing on a Rangers team that isn’t exactly sound defensively. The Canucks aren’t known for playing quality shutdown defence, either, but they would offer Lundqvist a better supporting cast compared to what he had in New York.

I’d argue that Lundqvist would be worth adding on a cheap one or two-year deal.

Just take a look at Ryan Miler. It was clear that after the 2016-17 season, his last with the Canucks, that Miller was no longer a reliable starter. However, he has flourished as a backup for John Gibson and the Anaheim Ducks, going 29-19-12 with a .916 save percentage and 2.72 goals against average over the last three years.

Lundqvist’s leadership and experience would make him a worthwhile addition for Vancouver. All they would need out of him is 30-something stars if Demko were to become a full-time starter. That should be manageable for Lundqvist.

Next. 3 right-handed defencemen the Canucks could target in free agency. dark

In short, if the Canucks decide to part ways with Markstrom and make Demko their No. 1 goalie, the front office should absolutely try to add Lundqvist in free agency.