The Vancouver Canucks are about to look very different, while remaining pretty much the same.
Because by the time the NHL Draft rolls around next week – and with July’s free agency period arriving on a speedboat – the Canucks may have decided to move on from one or two key-cog players on expiring contracts, like the versatile, lanky Shawn Matthias or Brad Richardson, the swiss army knife who missed nearly half of last season with a foot injury.
Both players will want money or term, and the Canucks may not be able to offer either.
Then there’s the goaltending. Despite massive strides by both Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom last season – Lack supplanting the bruised Ryan Miller as Vancouver’s No. 1 for months, Markstrom ascending to all-star status with the Utica Comets – and a comparably stale year from Ryan Miller, it appears Jim Benning is committed to trading one of his younger netminders.
And by appears, I mean, it’s happening.
“I want to keep an older, experienced goalie in Ryan, as that guy,” Benning told TSN 1040 radio on Wednesday. “And then we’re gonna decide on (keeping/trading) either Lack or Markstrom. I don’t feel comfortable going into the season with two younger goalies that haven’t had the experience of being the No. 1 guy, especially in this marketplace.
Read: ‘Taking on Vancouver’s New Goalie Controversy, and Its Absolute ‘Lack’ of Controversy‘ by Kolby Solinsky, Black Press (May 13, 2015)
“Ryan will for sure be back,” Benning continued. “I think there’s like three goalies that are backup goalies for other teams, that are in the marketplace. Outside of maybe one other goalie, I think our goalies (Lack/Markstrom) are the next best.”
Benning lamented for a second on the difficulty of moving goaltenders in the National Hockey League, where desires are high but the nerve is soft – “Even though teams need goalies, they don’t want to give up a lot to get them,” he said – before concluding that the Canucks will do what’s best for the organization. And what’s best is recovering something for either of their youngest goaltending assets, it seems.
(The Canucks also have Joacim Eriksson in the AHL, and drafted American national Thatcher Demko in the second round of last year’s NHL Draft. Demko was the top-rated junior goalie in 2014 and has completed two stellar years with the NCAA’s Boston College Eagles.)
It’s believed the Canucks are seeking a second-round pick for this year’s draft in return for Eddie Lack – maybe something more, depending on what the Swede’s value is around the league – after they traded away their own after-30 pick to the Calgary Flames in March, for Sven Baertschi.
But as Benning notes, shopping either Markstrom or Lack will be tricky and the finished product may have more to do with what’s happening elsewhere than what the Canucks are offering. Ottawa is expected to trade either Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner, the L.A. Kings will either trade or re-sign able backup Martin Jones, and the Rangers have stud second-fiddle Cam Talbot to dangle, with Henrik Lundqvist a lock between New York’s pipes.
In a draft this deep, where once-predicted first-rounders could easily slip to the middle or maybe the end of the second round, getting back any selection in the first 45 is a notable haul. Teams won’t take losing their second-rounder likely – most wouldn’t have given up one for Sven Baertschi, even if the temptation was there, back in March.
So if another club in desperate need of a goaltender – Edmonton, Carolina, maybe even Calgary (according to Eric Duhatschek) – can pry Talbot from New York or is comfortable settling with Lehner or moving picks for Anderson, Vancouver will have to account for that.
That makes trading either Lack or Markstrom priority one for Jim Benning, with the draft just days away (June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida).
“From what I understand, the organization is happy with Markstrom – saw a lot of progress, has some confidence,” said analyst and former player Aaron Ward, also to TSN radio in Vancouver.
“What you have is a pretty good body of work by Eddie Lack, where if you’re interested in advancing something for your team – you want to get something of value to address something right now – I think Eddie Lack would get that return you’re looking for.”
VIDEO: Markstrom Stick Save (May 31, 2015)
VIDEO: Eddie Lack sticks it to Brad Richards (November 30, 2013)
VIDEO: Jacob Markstrom’s daylight robbery on Tyler Bertuzzi (June 1, 2015)
VIDEO: Eddie Lack denies a sure Jets goal (December 22, 2013)