For all the hand-wringing around the market lately about the Vancouver Canucks re-construction of their roster while staying under the salary cap, and the related reaction to the $50-million dollars still owed new defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson over the next six years, I think there’s a basic reality about this squad that might be overlooked.
The Vancouver Canucks have hitched their full-time wagon to a 25-year-old goalie with 72 games of NHL regular season experience and four playoff appearances. No hand-wringing? Hmmm.
Maybe the Canucks constituency is just fed up with the ongoing goaltender-situation hijinks. Remember that dude that was still here ten months ago, Jacob Markström? ($6-million a year for five more in Calgary). Which franchise is better off in the long run? Go ahead and play the Jeopardy music, I’ll wait.
Thatcher Demko inked a five-year deal this past March for $5-million dollars per season. At the time, the hopes were still relatively high that the tidy tandem of Braden Holtby and Demko would easily handle carrying the load for two seasons, the length of Holtby’s deal, while Demko was nurtured into a full-time guy. That day has not-so-suddenly arrived.
From a financial standpoint, it wasn’t crazy hoping to have two solid netminders keeping tabs on each other, making each other better for the sum total of $9.3-million dollars. Keep in mind, Stanley Cup finalist number-one, the Montreal Canadiens, have a single goalie earning more than that, Carey Price at $10.5-million. Add Jake Allen at $2.875-million and you’re looking at at $13+million dollar salary whack. Stanley Cup finalist number-two, the champion Tampa Bay Lightning, have a single goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy also making more than the latest Canucks tandem, at $9.5-million. Frankly, what the back-ups made in TB meant nothing, and at this point both Curtis McElhinney and Chris Gibson are low-priced UFAs. Yes, the goalie cap situation in Montreal probably did prevent that team from getting over the final hump, with not quite enough ($$) talent to bolster their attack. But that’s $13-million, not nine, and they did make the Stanley Cup Final.
Which makes this presumably “low-priced” decision by the Canucks, forced upon them by the salary cap situation, all the more urgent. A veteran back-up, like a Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott at around or under $2-bills, or James Reimer or Linus Ullmark at what would have to be a dramatic reduction from their norm’ at this point, have mostly “been there, done that.” Laurent Brossoit could presumably be had at a competitive price. The problem is two-fold; the Canucks have that limited budget and the goalie-musical-chairs game happens quickly. Vancouver needs an answer for when the music stops. Youngster Mike DiPietro should not be the back-up.
Anyone ever heard of Matt Murray? Let’s review the career arc of Anton Khudobin. Andrew Raycroft anyone? How about Dan Blackburn. OK, so injuries were a factor with the latter, but, oh yeah, injuries happen. For a roster being built for a win-now or an almost win-now purpose, there might want to be a smidge more certainty between the pipes.
Sorry about the hand-wringing, but the most important position on the ice is also the most unpredictable.